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Lenten Devotional, March 26: By Angela Holder

Unforgivable?

Excerpt from White Nights by Angela Holder writing as Elana Brooks

In the science fiction romance novella White Nights, Solomon and Keiko are celebrating their tenth anniversary when dark secrets about the beginning of their relationship come to light. In this scene, near the end of the story, they discuss whether their marriage can survive now that they both know the full truth. Solomon, a seasoned Rabbi, calls on his teaching gifts to navigate this conversation:

"What I did was unforgivable." Keiko spread her hands and shrugged helplessly.

"Was it?" Solomon picked up his napkin and twisted the cloth between his fingers. "Forgiving isn't the same as excusing, you know. If you excuse an action, you're maintaining that it wasn't wrong... Do you agree?"

Keiko drew her brows together. "I guess."

Solomon warmed to his argument. "Under that definition, your action was inexcusable. You were of legal age, you were in full control of your mind and body, and you were aware that (what you were doing) was wrong, yet you chose to do so anyway. Correct?"

"Yes!" Keiko said miserably. "I've already admitted it. Why are you belaboring the point?"

"Because inexcusable is not the same as unforgivable. In order to forgive, one must acknowledge that the action in question was wrong, that harm was done, and that the one who committed it is morally responsible for the consequences. The one wronged chooses...to waive the just penalty that would otherwise fall upon the perpetrator. Do you agree with me so far?"

Keiko caught her breath. What Solomon was saying made sense. Hope wormed into her heart, cracking the stone barrier she'd flung up to protect it. "I guess."
He leaned forward, regarding her gravely. "What you did was wrong. You hurt me. I suffered because of your action... If I were to choose to end my relationship with you in response, or to pursue legal action against you, or simply to remain angry with you, my actions would be entirely just and righteous. Yes?"
Keiko's heart sank again. She closed her eyes. "Yes."

Warm hands covered hers. Solomon's voice was low and earnest, backed up by his unshielded thoughts. "But I choose not to... You've expressed great remorse,...it occurred many years ago, and you haven't repeated it since. You've given me a great deal of joy and pleasure over the years. Those things don't earn my forgiveness, but they make it very easy to grant. I love you, Keiko. I want to continue to enjoy a relationship with you. Forgiving you is selfish on my part."
The stone around her heart was shivering into a million pieces. But she had to try one more time to save both him and herself. She stared at his hands on her clenched fists. She couldn't force out more than a barely audible whisper, ... "What if I hurt you again? How can you be sure I won't?"

"I can't." He raised a hand to stroke her cheek. "(It's) a gamble."... His voice roughened. "I love you enough to take that chance. To make myself vulnerable to you. To bare my heart to your knife, leaving it up to you whether or not to thrust it in." A trace of humor crept into his tone. "I think the odds are pretty good you won't."

Keiko sucked in great ragged breaths, fighting not to let them become sobs. "I don't deserve it."

"No one ever deserves forgiveness, or love, or trust. They're freely given gifts. I offer them to you." His eyes slid to the side. "You don't have to accept them. My forgiveness in no way obligates you to offer me yours. If continuing to hold me to account for the ways I've hurt you serves your heart and life better, you are entirely within your rights to do so." He held up a hand before she could respond. "Give it at least a little thought before you decide. And remember, each gift is independent of the others. You can forgive me without loving me. You can love me without trusting me."

His voice roughened. "In fact, if you're willing to listen to the advice of someone who loves you very much, I would urge you not to trust me. The odds are much too high that I'll hurt you again. Not on purpose. But even if by some miracle I survive the war with the Seraphim, I'm twenty-five years older than you are. I can't protect you from the pain of losing me."

"It was too late to spare me that pain the day we met." Keiko rubbed her temples. "Forgiving you is easy. Forgiving myself is the hard part."

He nodded slowly. "For me as well."


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