I had been thinking about it for months. These ideas get stuck in my head like inception; but it seemed so hard to drive down the mountain, find a place to buy them, walk in the store, pick them out, wait as the clerk prepared them and then lug them back up the mountain again. So I kept putting it off.
Maybe I was just making those things hard, when in reality forgiveness was the hard part, hard to let go and give to God. So I kept putting it off.
But I wanted to forgive, for me, so I could move on.
Finally I put it on the calendar; I drove down the mountain in rain, and I started my search at the grocery store in the small mountain town of Mars Hill, North Carolina. Bingo. I called the clerk over and selected the colors, meaning every color they had. I stood there, waiting for them to be ready.
“You having a party?” The clerk looked at me cheerfully nodding his head as he asked the question.
What else could I say I was doing with eleven balloons of every color? Cheerfully I smiled and said, “Yes,” hoping that would be the end of that conversation. I'm afraid it only peaked his curiosity.
“Cool, a birthday party?” He prodded with a stupid smile plastered to his face and his head bobbing up and down.
I, too, kept a stupid smile plastered on my face as I lied through the interrogation. “Yep, Grandma’s 90th birthday.” Why did I have to elaborate on the lie?
“Well, I hope the party isn't outside,” he said as he glanced toward the front of the store window. It was pouring rain.
“Nope, inside.” I added confidently, still smiling stupidly.
I paid for my eleven multi-color birthday balloons, dashed out in the rain and tried to stuff them in my car. Soaked, I drove back up the mountain to my cabin. I poured myself a large glass of red wine and set my mind and heart to the empty cards in front of me, eleven of them. I looked at my list; there were 7 people/events that I needed to forgive and 4 messages I needed to send home to receive forgiveness of my own.
I picked up a black ballpoint pen and sighed as I raised it to the blank card.
"Dear Someone (not the real name), I forgive you and give you to God, that you may haunt my days no more. This is me letting go."
When I finished, I looked at it for a long time. I thought about its significance and all that I was letting go of.
Forgiveness is hard. I wanted to have my day in court, my vengeance in this life. Instead, I folded the card and tied a ribbon around it and attached it to a hot pink balloon. I did this ten more times, then I went to bed.
At 5:30am I rose quickly. The dog looked at me funny, not accustomed to seeing me rise for the day in the dark. I dressed and walked out from my room to find three of my eleven balloons sagging near the ground.
Letting go was going to be harder then I thought.
There is mountain top called Big Bald that I can access from my cabin in about a 30 minute hike. The Appalachian Trail makes its way over the top, where there is a 360 degree view. On a clear day you can see six states, and I would argue that it is the best view in North Carolina, and probably the best view on the whole Appalachian Trail, though I haven’t hiked the whole thing.
I gathered my balloons, even the sagging ones, and started hiking. I hoped to reach the summit by sunrise, where I would let go as I symbol to myself and my maker that I was shifted in my heart.
I cried some on the way up, grieving the things that I had lost and the people that had stolen hope from me.
I reflected on the pain and the hatred that I had let brew in my heart, and on my daytime fantasies of finally getting the upper hand and righting the wrong. But I knew better than to think that wrongs could be righted in this fallen world. I have my own wrongs. One in particular cannot be righted until I stand in heaven before the man that I was not able to save. Only there will both of us fully be redeemed as he embraces me like a daughter.
Until I reach that day in heaven, my unredeemed self will accept the grace of his forgiveness and forever walk humbled, awaiting my heavenly and holy redemption.
But to receive redemption, your heart must be positioned away from revenge and rightness, and towards forgiveness and hope and salvation.
Forgiveness was what I wanted to settle in my heart. Forgiveness was what I wanted to give as well as be given. Forgiveness was the reason I hiked in the dark to the top of a mountain with eleven multiple colored balloons. When hatred entered my heart or when I obsessed over the pain and those that caused it, I wanted to remind myself, “remember, you let that go by giving that to God.”
I reached the top as the sun was reaching for day. The colors of the sky were painted for me that morning, I was sure. There I stood at the top, holding my balloons with notes attached.
I set my heart toward heaven as I released my grip on the balloons. I have never seen balloons shoot off with such fury. They were caught in a fiery gust of wind and taken from me in an instant. I actually felt something lift off of me as I watched the balloons of every color float across the mountain range into the distance; I received my own forgiveness as I gave it away. Even the sagging one propelled upward. I think of that picture, balloons of every color flying across 6 states, every time I feel hatred building. I remind myself,
“You forgave and gave that to God, so that it would haunt your days no more.”
Now go in peace, given & forgiven.