Forgiveness, Time, and a Few Flying Pigs
I was fourteen, awkwardly overdeveloped compared to my peers, quiet, and poor. He was fifteen, adorable, and probably the most pursued boy in my church’s region. I’d been warned by the other girls that I wasn’t allowed to like him, but I did anyways (frigging hormones!). It was a daily misery, knowing that I wanted what I would never have.
Until November 14, 1995, when he told me that he “maybe liked me, but wasn’t really sure,” and said that kissing me would probably help him decide. I was floored, and the kiss was over as fast as it started. It was too fast to decide if I liked it or not. So later that night, we tried again, and wouldn’t you know, neither of us hated it.
That was the beginning of years of a relationship that shouldn’t have happened like it did. It happened in secret, apart from everyone. I wasn’t good enough, in the eyes of outsiders, to be paired up with such a golden child. So we met in secret. We didn’t act like we were together. We didn’t flirt or hold hands – in fact, we went out of our way to make it look like nothing was happening. Young and naïve, I was convinced that if I was thinner, prettier, more popular, that it would be different. I thought that if I went farther than I was comfortable with, it would make him happy, and maybe then he would like me.
It didn’t work out that way. Instead, we found ourselves the middle of music camp scandal, and then it was off and on again until finally, I said it was over. I was so brokenhearted. I had come to love him over the years we were together, and I felt used and manipulated. I was bitter and angry and I stayed that way for a long time.
Whenever we ran into each other in the following years, it was like someone sucked the oxygen out of the room. We never knew what to say. How to act. Thankfully, it didn’t happen too often.
Leap Day 2012, a full 13 years after we ended, he called me. He said that he wanted to apologize for the way things happened. He wanted to finally tell me that he had, in fact, liked me, and that he wishes he had been bold enough to say so. He asked for my forgiveness.
I never thought that day would come. Truthfully, I had spent hours and hours over the years rehearsing the vile things I would say to him. But instead, I found myself apologizing as well, because I had known better. I accepted his apology, even though I never expected it, and wasn’t prepared to.
I’ve heard thousands of sermons on forgiveness. I’ve preached on it myself. But no sermon, no lecture, or Bible study, or other interaction was as profound a lesson in forgiveness as that one. To forgive and be forgiven for one of the deepest hurts of my lifetime… I still struggle to articulate it. It was freeing in a way that I never thought would happen.
Tonight, a few friends independently commented on something he posted on his blog. They bristled at it, and I found myself kind of defending him. Not that I was agreeing with him, but I had a bit of a need for them to know that he is “good people.” I was a little protective of him. We aren’t really friends now, though we have talked a few times.
As I walked around work tonight, I wondered why I had defended him. I could have let people think whatever they wanted to think. But then I realized that there is something different about the first boy a girl loves. Because I’ve been forgiven, and have forgiven him, I’ve come to see that time differently: not with so much harshness and bitterness, but with a kind of sad, beautiful tenderness that understands that we were both so young, so fragile.
Pigs may have flown tonight as I defended him. The devil may be wearing a parka and dear stalker as I come to realize that in a small, different way, I’ll probably always love him. Not because of any relationship we have now, but because of what he once meant, and what we learned together, and out of respect for the character and courage it took for him to make that phone call. Forgiveness is what makes love possible, even after the biggest hurts. Do I wish that we had done things differently as teenagers? Absolutely. But the beauty of forgiveness – and love – is that it can heal wounds that are deeper than we could ever fathom.