Rosh Hashanah Day 1, September 7, 2021 / 5782
I’ve been reading the work of Otto Scharmer, an economist and social activist based at MIT who describes his theory of change – Theory U. The basics of his theory are that in order to change, we need to let go of the past and travel down one side of a big U of letting go, making space, and then, at the very nadir of the U, letting in what’s coming, the world that is being born. Only by making space, by letting go of what we held on to, can we make space for the emergent future that is already on its way. Traveling up the other side of U is building that future, turning it from an idea to proper action.
Today I want to look at how we might let go of this year, of this year and a half really, to make space for what is coming. I want to talk about forgiveness – specifically, I want to talk about the forgiveness we can offer.
When I was little, I used to read my dad’s comic books, slim paperback volumes from the 70s and 80s lining our basement shelves. I remember reading the comics of Stan and Jan Berenstain, better known for their children’s series The Berenstain Bears – they also created a collection of one-frame adult comics addressing family life, a series of which ran in the newspaper until 1989. I remember one particular comic that showed a mother holding her child, who had fallen off his bike and had a bleeding-skinned knee. The caption was simply, “I forgive you everything.”
I maybe sort of knew what this meant as a 10-year-old, but only as a parent myself did I fully relate to that flood of love and forgiveness that comes when your child is suffering. Perhaps no more so than on a sunny day when Elijah almost drowned. I still lie in bed some nights replaying my fear from that moment. We were all at a birthday pool party, and for some reason, I had just been reading several articles about the signs of drowning and how it usually makes no noise. I was walking past the pool to use the bathroom and suddenly realized I was looking at one of those signs, Elijah’s little fingers and nothing else, pointing up, bobbing up and down in the water where the shallow end begins to drop. In a split second, I leapt into the water and pulled him out – he was probably under for about 10 seconds when I grabbed him. He took a huge breath and we sat together silently by the poolside for the rest of the party, me praying silent gratitudes to God. And as I held him close, I was that mother in the comic: “I forgive you everything.”