On a bus ride home last week, gazing out of the window into the fading light, my idle daydream was interupted by a young man banging on the window, by my face, looking me in the eye, and yelling "you're ugly!" as the bus pulled out.
At the time it sort of just washed over me. A bit taken aback, I wasn't particularly hurt or bothered, more bemused. I soon forgot about it.
Until last night, riding a different bus home. Gazing out of the window, my thoughts went back to that encounter, and suddenly my heart filled with incredulousness at the injustice of it, the anger and hurt at how cruel people can be, for no apparent reason. Whizzing around my brain were any number of scenarios involving retaliation or retribution, ranging from getting off the bus to deliver a particular pointed and cutting lecture about every person's inherent worth and value and his lack of respect towards women, to simply walloping him whilst yelling any combination of choice names at him.
Catching myself, I realised somewhat ashamedly that clearly I was holding onto this, with no trace of mercy or forgiveness. So I found myself praying a quick prayer...
"I'm sorry Lord, please forgive me, and help me forgive this young man. He was drunk, and a bit lary, and trying to impress his friends..."
And then I realised, my basis for forgiveness here was justification. There I was, trying to write off what he'd done, explain it away, find a reason as to why he did it that somehow took the direct blame from him. Cos finding a way where he became less culpable, where what had happened could be somehow justified, or made less bad, seemed to make it easier to summon feelings of forgiveness.
That's not how it works, Heath.
"But this is hard! How can I let this go? Small as it was, it hurts. He was mean to me! I'm angry! How can I let a action like that just go? Without even an apology! How can I forgive that man?"
Staring into my hands, clutching my oyster card, feeling hard done by, a mix of anger and hurt at the injustice of it all. And knowing that I really did want to try to show grace and love, frustrated that those feelings eluded me. All over one random incident on a journey home, perpetrated by someone who did not even know me and so whose words really shouldn't carry such weight.
"This is hard."
I know, Heath.
Eyes, looking at me, into my own eyes, into my heart. Eyes showing sadness, showing understanding too, but greater than those things, eyes showing such depths of love.
I know. This way is hard.