I never really grew up with liturgy. This could be because most of my time was spent in youth group other than Christmas and Easter, because my family never attended “traditional” style worship, or because I dedicated my time to worship on Wednesday nights in college rather than on Sunday mornings. Then again, it is probably a combination of all of those, but what is important is that liturgy is new to me. Attending a church for a whole year where we recite the liturgy on Sunday mornings has been something to get used to here. Granted, the words are in Khmer but I am lucky enough to have the English projected as well. That being said, there is a phrase we say every Sunday that has hit me since the first morning I walked into City Church only days after arriving in Cambodia.
It shows up during the section of asking for forgiveness and naming the ways we have sinned (i.e. in thought, word, and deed…etc.). But what has struck me since that very first recitation is the line that reads:
“For the things we have done, and the things we have left undone.”
Now, the first part of this statement makes plenty of sense. The things we do that are sinful, we ask forgiveness for that. This is what Christians are taught when they are little, we do bad things, and God forgives us. That second line though, take a moment to think about what it says. It seems to me that the category of things left undone can be so expansive that I wouldn’t know where to start. How many missed moments are there each week where we could have been doing something different? As this upcoming week begins, I am struck with the fact that these are the last two weeks I will spend in my host community, and it makes me think about this phrase a lot.
My Cambodian brothers and sisters in the hostel are hospitable, kind, silly, intelligent, and full of overwhelming grace. It is hard to reach the end of this year and realize that there will be things I have left undone here. My inner-most self wants to apologize for the many things I won’t do before I have to say goodbye.
For the meals I missed eating with people. The places I never explored. The stories I never heard. The stories I was never a part of. The counters I didn’t clean. The Khmer words I never learned. The presence I may have lacked. The dishes I never got to wash. The people I never met.
I could drive myself crazy with the insurmountable list of things I have left undone here, but that is not what this year is about and that is not what my community would have me do. Rather, they would wave their hands and offer an Aht dte té. This phrase has come to mean many things over this year: it’s okay, never mind, don’t worry about it, but the most powerful and nuanced way it is used can sometimes be lost in translation. I forgive you. Any time this past year I would say sohm dtoh, excuse me/sorry, the immediate response would be aht dte té. I forgive you. Worry about it no longer. With so many times of not knowing the words or the right thing to do, I would think that the answer would change at some point. It never did. Grace was abundant, plentiful, and unbounded.
So, I go into this last weeks thinking about the forgiveness I crave for all the things I have left undone in a place that has done so much for me. And then I remember what the people in this place have shown me over and over again. Love, forgiveness, and grace. My host community here has taught me throughout this astonishing journey that radical hospitality is led by grace. This one lesson lightens my soul and heart. I know that because of these amazing people, I won’t worry about the things left undone, because they wouldn’t want me to. They would tell me it’s okay, don’t worry, I forgive you. With that knowledge in mind, I know that because of my community here, forgiving myself for all the things I didn’t do in the last year is one thing that will not be left undone.