Just a few days ago one of my college professors said something that resonated with me but didn’t hit home until today: “If the Lord can speak through an ass (Balaam’s; see, Numbers 22-24, Hebrew Bible) he can speak through anyone.” That is certainly the case for me today and from a most unexpected source.
I’ve been struggling a lot lately with what it means to let bygones be bygones. I’ve always sensed that I had a mistaken notion of what letting bygones be bygones actually means; today I learned that I was most certainly right about this—I was mistaken. According to the dictionary this is “something that you say in order to tell someone to forget about unpleasant things that have happened in the past.” Truth be told, that is a big fat lie. Forgetting is nonsense (and quite frankly, impossible). But letting go and forgiving is not. Hear me out here, please.
I came home from spending New Year’s Eve at my younger brother’s house. He is a favorite among my four brothers (in fact, I think that given our birthdates, he is the one that I feel the most affinity with—we were born 14 months and 11 days a part). I was a bit disappointed (as I usually am) when I came home from spending time with him. I have these notions about what our relationship “should” be like and reality and my “notions” always fall short of my expectations. I’ll move on…. I have very few memories from my childhood that are as powerful as ones with him involved. One of those memories is being at a shoe store in the Bronx where the salesman/owner wanted me to have a piece of candy and a balloon to take home with my new pair of black Mary Jane’s. Well, I refused to leave without a balloon and a piece of candy for my younger brother…. In my mind, this is a pivotal moment for me in relation to my brother.
When I arrived at my apartment I decided to watch a movie that I could get ‘lost in” and try to avoid reality…well, as is always the case when I have great plans they are turned on their head by what I am convinced is the voice of God speaking through the greatest of asses.
I don’t know about you, but I love to make fun of Hollywood. From my “lofty position of obviousness,” I like to think that Hollywood is decadent and useless. But then, I forget, Hollywood is made of souls that are on the same path that I am on: the path to the perfection of humanity, the path to holiness.
Click here for the trailer of my Balaam’s ass for the day–the most unexpected place to learn a very Christian lesson of forgiveness (new-agers would call it “letting go”). Without pretending to be a psychoanalytic specialist (which I am most certainly not), I have to say that this movie was cathartic. No, I didn’t have this kind of high school experience…. What surprised me was my incredible desire to let one of the protagonists have her revenge…I didn’t want a happy ending. Me, the one that always criticizes Hollywood for giving in to what I like to call, “French endings” (dramatic, dark, and anti-climactic), was rooting for revenge. What is even more interesting is that in my mind, the revenge would have been justice (when, in fact, it would simply have been revenge). It freaked me out how “involved” I became in this juvenile plot of the protagonist to get back at her high school nemesis. There was a sub-plot in this movie, too. Jamie Lee Curtis played the mother of the protagonist who had her own score to settle with an “arch-nemesis” from her own past.
The movie ended with important discoveries being made and forgiveness being had. This is not, by any stretch, an exceptional film—but it helped me understand something important. To forgive is not to forget: it is to withhold my right to judge and seek a mistaken sense of justice (righting of a wrong) with a gospel sense of fairness: We are all “mean girls” in need of forgiveness so give the other gal a break.
Happy Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. A more compelling sense of forgiveness has never been known. While she watched from the foot of the cross her son dying an agonizing death, she accepted maternity of the whole fallen world. Mary said yes. She didn’t say “yes but,” she merely said yes.
Here is to a 2012 of hopeful “yesses” and the embracing of so-called bygones.