Sunday 20 January 2013
In her wonderful and moving book ‘If You Sit Very Still’, Marian Partington reflects on the 20 year disappearance of her sister and the discovery that Lucy had been a victim of Frederick and Rosemary West. Lucy’s remains were identified during one of the excavations in Cromwell Street, Gloucester.
In a book which is ultimately full of hope and grace she reflects on these words: “Forgiveness is giving up all hope of a better past”. It is one of those sentences that you read for the first time and find that you have stopped breathing for a moment. Powerful, challenging and literally breathtaking.
Forgiveness is one of the great themes of the Christian life and I want to reflect theologically on what “giving up all hope of a better past” might mean for Christians. It seems to be an essential intellectual and psychological starting point for forgiving, but I had never before thought of it in this way. It is challenging because to give up such a hope involves a process of rigorous honesty with our feelings about something that happened, so that we can integrate it into our story. Accepting a painful or uncomfortable truth without denying it or hiding from it.
I suggest that “giving up all hope of a better past” is a demanding but essential step towards true repentance. It is a way of loosening the bonds which prevent us from turning around and facing the light of God made manifest in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ.
This tough but mandatory journey for Christian people is the only way to the hope of a better future.
Revd David Jackson