The pain was agony.
It was like the worst kind of heartburn, but as if I'd swallowed bleach. It spread out across my chest and into the back of my throat, and made every breath a chore. I thought I'd never recover from it.
I hated with a bright, hot, burning implacability. I walked, for miles and miles with the pushchair; my feet determinedly pounding into the pavement as I pointlessly re-ran every conversation, every argument, every detail. It wasn't a scab to be picked; it was an open, festering wound, that I dug at endlessly. And so of course, it refused to heal.
I wanted to hurt, as I had been hurt. I wanted to damage and I wanted to destroy. I felt so ill-used, so betrayed. It preoccupied me, and would have continued to do so if I hadn't eventually decided to put my daughter – and myself – before my own hatred.
You can't love completely if you're filled with such hate. You just can't. It simmers within you, and people can see it. They can sense that there is a darkness within you, that perhaps they dare not even question. Hatred preoccupies and it dominates. It takes you over, and you become nothing more than a bitter expression of it.
I refused to let that happen to me. I made a conscious, irrevocable decision to let it go; not for his sake, but for my own. I just couldn't live with that nasty, churning feeling in my gut anymore, and I wanted to be free of it.
For me, that was how forgiveness began; it was taking the empowering choice to not hate, when I had every right and excuse to do so. It was about taking an alternative path, one which didn't make my guts twist unpleasantly, and one where I could breathe freely and with ease.
Now, I'm not saying that suddenly, overnight, I didn't hate him anymore. It still lingered for a while, because healing, after all, is a process. It took discipline of thought, and a strength I didn't know I had. I had to say to myself:
“No. I will not bestow such a powerful emotion as hate upon him. He's not worthy of such a strong emotion, nor the energy required to maintain it.”
Now, nearly thirteen years later, when I think of him, I feel nothing. There is blessed, numb, indifference. I do not wish him ill, I do not wish him any particular joy. In truth, I rarely think of him at all. And that in itself, is a blessing.
So what does this have to do with what's happening here in Britain, right now? Stick with me, there is a point.
We live in a bitterly divided country, perhaps more so now than after the EU Referendum. Splits which were exposed last summer, have widened and deepened, and now look utterly unassailable. This election has created more rifts and divisions than any I can remember; we stand either side of a divide where people either boldly and loudly place their flags of allegiance, or instead, are too cowed to do so.
So we have a situation where my kindly, loving, elderly neighbours, who put my bins back in for me without being asked, and give old toys to my kids, made entirely different choices to me at this election, and probably at the EU Referendum too. I hate that they made those choices; I'm violently opposed to those choices, and wish they'd made different ones. But hate them for their choices? I'm sorry. I just can't do that. They're still Betty and Bill; basically good people, who simply don't see the world in the same way as me. I can castigate them for this, and take an arrogant position of moral superiority, but what would that actually achieve? The answer is nothing; the result is still the same, and it turns out the only thing I can actually change here is my own attitude to it.
To my friends on social media; I see you. Those of you who are too afraid to speak up and say, “well actually, I chose to vote for your sworn enemy.”
I'm sorry things are like this.
It's hard, I know.
I'm angry that you made that choice. I'll probably stay angry for a good while yet. But I want to divorce my anger at your choice, from you as a fellow human being. Not because your choice doesn't matter to me, but because I want you to respect my choices too. And mainly, because I just can't do this anymore. It’s too exhausting. It's corrosive and embittering, and I want no part of it.
This is what attracts me to Jesus Christ. To radically love and with abandon, means not just those people who we mesh with, and laugh with, and who share our views, but those people who we are often violently opposed to. We must resist this binary thinking of you're either with me, or against me. If you think X, then Y and Z must follow. We need to stop thinking like that, however galling, and however unnatural that might feel.
We must carve a way forward that is both loving, fair and tolerant, but which also honours and respects peoples’ anger and despair. If you chide others for their anger by calling for us “all to be friends,” without a qualifier, then you are undermining their reasons for being angry in the first place. Christianity is guilty of this time and time again. We behave as if anger has no place in our churches, when it does. It just needs to be honoured and directed wisely.
So don't tell people to stop being angry. However well-intentioned you may be, it makes you sound unfeeling and patronising. Let people express their rage and bewilderment. Let them rant. For if there is a time for every season under Heaven, then now is our time to rage. Later, when the tide has calmed, and we can breathe evenly again, then there will be a time for healing. But first, let us just rage. That in itself, is healing. And then when the dust has settled, maybe our calm can help usher in a season to love, because if I've learned anything in this life, it's that hate will never heal anything. It knows only how to destroy.