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Embracing Divine Love: A Journey of Healing and Forgiveness

  |  15.03.24

March 11th marked a pivotal moment in my spiritual quest as I began fasting for Great Lent for the first time in nearly a decade. This time of reflection and self-denial has ushered in a deep contemplation on forgiveness, a subject that has long intrigued and challenged me. The notion of forgiveness, especially within the Christian faith, has sparked a curiosity about the essence of divine forgiveness.

A particularly compelling question is whether divine forgiveness requires the wrongdoer to repent and acknowledge their wrongdoings. This becomes even more stimulating when considering the story of Lucifer. It begs the question: Is forgiveness something we earn, or is it bestowed freely?

This exploration is intensely personal. It involves examining our own ability to forgive and the conditions we impose on granting forgiveness to others. It’s about confronting the core of our spirituality and our connection with the divine, a journey that requires honesty, deep introspection, and the courage to tackle the tough questions that arise.

Raised in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, I grew up surrounded by teachings that God is Love, forgiving and nurturing. This environment, rich in tradition and fellowship, introduced me to a God of profound love for humanity, where I felt enveloped in divine affection.

However, at 13, I faced a harsh reality. My feelings of romantic and sexual affection differed from my peers’, leaning towards the same sex. That year, a Sunday school lesson dramatically altered my view of the church and God, revealing a disdain for people like me. A place that once preached love seemed to advocate for exclusion and contempt, signalling a God who already rejected me. This stark shift estranged me from a faith that appeared shallow and conditional, pushing me away from a previously comforting presence.

The pain of this exclusion haunted me for years as I struggled against my own identity, believing I fell short of God’s image. It wasn’t until my 20s that I began to critically reassess these narratives, fostered by those who seemed to misrepresent Christianity. I dove into religious texts, determined to uncover the true scope of God’s love, refusing to accept the selective condemnation I faced. My admiration for Jesus, who welcomed anyone willing to follow him, reinforced this quest.

My story is not about seeking validation from any institution. Christ was not bound by any institution but belonged to all who chose to embrace him. This insight was a declaration against those who had distanced me from God, making me question His love. “I do not forgive you for what you’ve done to me” I found strength in the words of James Baldwin, who said ” “It took many years of vomiting up all the filth I’d been taught about myself, and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.”

Forgiveness, as I’ve come to understand it, is not just an act of grace towards others, but a profound inward journey of healing. My perspective shifted dramatically after the end of my first relationship, which was not only my first encounter with someone from Ethiopia but also my introduction to the harsh realities of abuse. Isolated and without the words to describe my ordeal, I grappled with the weight of my experiences in solitude. The turning point came when I realized forgiveness did not hinge on his apology or my ability to grant it. Instead, I discovered the necessity of forgiving myself. The self-castigation for allowing such pain into my life, the incessant whispers of “I should have known better,” had to be met with compassion and forgiveness from within. This self-forgiveness became my solace, easing the anger and pain that had burrowed deep within me. My journey through the aftermath of love tainted by cruelty and prejudice profoundly shaped my understanding of forgiveness, teaching me its true power and purpose.

Another turning point came when a spiritual father at Zequala Abo Monastery showed me unconditional love, affirming that God indeed loves and values me. His kindness helped guide me back to a loving relationship with God. This journey taught me to forgive myself for valuing the misguided words of others over my inherent worth.

Today, my mission is driven by self-love, aiming to prevent others from experiencing such spiritual harm. My focus is not on vengeance but on affirming that no one can monopolize God or His boundless, inclusive love. My faith and understanding of God have been restored, defined not by narrow interpretations but by His true, unconditional nature. While this journey is ongoing, it’s a daily reaffirmation of my faith and spirituality, echoing Audre Lorde’s sentiment that “revolution is not a one-time event.” Returning to God’s love was not only about recognizing His love for me, but also about proudly and unapologetically affirming my love for myself.

To those who see themselves as divine agents on earth, I hope you will introspect and find the compassion and understanding in scripture to forgive yourselves for the exclusion justified in its name.

 

 

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