I’ve written a lot about this subject and I think that I’m pretty good at it for the most part. I don’t typically hold things too long. I’m sure that there are things that I have that I’m not aware of. Forgiveness is as much a process as conversion or maturation. It’s not an event. It comes over time as I am healed and am able to accept and extend grace. Some of my favorite quotes:
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.
You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well.
Lewis B. Smedes
Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.
I have a near-photographic memory. Or at least I did before I turned 40. The shutter is closing it seems. But prior to my slide up an over the hill, I could see something once and pretty much capture it, if I was trying to. I’m not one of these party trick people who see and memorize things whether they want to or not. But for the most part, the things I see, really see, stay in my brain, for better or worse.
Remember the children’s song “Be Careful Little Eyes What you See”. I won’t get into what’s theologically wrong with that song but there truth in understanding how important it is to guide our eyes to see things that are helpful, healthy, life-giving, because what we see goes in our brain, and we dwell on the things that are in our brains.
Think on these things.
Henry David Thoreau said, “it takes two to speak the truth: one to speak, and another to hear.”
Truth cannot be done alone. Truth is a community effort. Truth grows, bends, stretches and is shaped by what we are willing to hear. We can talk all we want, but in the end if no one hears it, is it really true?
The word “believe’ was explained to me as having and action component to it that makes it different from just “knowing” something. For example, I can sit in a dark room and know that if I get up and flip a switch, there will be light. But I don’t really believe that until I actually get up and flip the switch. There is a broad and very deep chasm between knowing and believing. It’s scary, dark, unknown and seemingly unleapable. It reminds me of the scene in the last decent Indiana Jones film when Indy has to step out onto nothing to get to the holy grail. Take the step. Oh sure, it doesn’t look like there’s anything there, but the old dude with the beard said to do it, so what could possibly go wrong? When you believe, it’s time to do. And until you do, just be.
I’m cheating a bit and putting Do and Be together because I find that those two things are always fighting within me a bit. My first thought when I saw these words juxtaposed was, “I am a human being, not a human doing.” This is something that I have to repeat often to myself because I can be a bit of a workaholic and tend to find my value in what I do rather than in who I am. Also comes from being a musician with a performance-based self esteem. In my younger days when I wanted to escape emotional difficulty, I would DO.
I can be impatient with introspection, or what I sometimes can interpret as navel-gazing. I’m all about taking time to contemplate, but there is a time to be and a time to do. My time to do sometimes comes quicker than others. Perhaps the grace is learning to balance the being and the doing is to honor the timing that feels right to me and honor the timing that feels right to others.
When I take time to BE, I’m all there is. There is no distraction, no noise, no performance, no effort. In that way, when I come to the end of myself, and it’s just me and God, we are alike in that We Are. I am. What I love about the Hebrew word for God’s name (and about the whole language) is that there are so many possible meanings for every word. There are pages and pages of possible meanings for God’s name. My favorite is I am Becoming Who I Am Becoming. God is, was, will be, and is becoming. This is one of many ways we are in the image of God. We are but we are also not yet, and in the present moment, we can BE.
I’ve been reading a lot of books related to Nazi Germany lately and I think the thing that surprises me the most is the lack of action on the part of the Christian community. I’m currently reading Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy and I’m getting the inside scoop on the relationship between the German Church and the Third Reich. Complicated is an understatement. It’s really easy to read the accounts of what happened and think that I would have behaved differently, but I’m not sure I would have done.
We’ve all heard this quote, or a version of it:
First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.
It was written by Martin Niemoller, a German pastor who was first on board with the Nazi regime until it became clear to him that Hitler wanted the Nazi part to be supreme over the church. Niemoller then became part of the resistance movement of Christian pastors until he was imprisoned for “lack of enthusiasm for the Nazi party”. Lack of enthusiasm. That’s a hell of a rap sheet.
In my reading of scripture we are called to speak for the powerless and for those who have no advocate. History is full of Christians who chose power over action. Those who chose action are fewer but also remembered. Right now there is an assault going on in parts of the US on people who just want to vote, on children who were brought to this country by their parents and just want to have a fair shot at a life here, and on people who are unable to earn a living wage while CEOs get raise after raise and corporate profits are at a record high. It’s easy to be too overwhelmed to act. But we aren’t called to fix everything. We just need to listen to the call and act in small ways. Each of us doing one small thing can change the world.
Most of my friends know that I’m obsessed (OBSESSED) with Jewish culture & all things Judaism. I’m not going to lie – I’m kind of jealous of my cousin who converted. I am too much about Jesus to do that myself, but I do love seeing the practices and traditions that connect Judaism and Christianity. The Jewish calendar follows the lunar cycles and they are in their last month of the year before the high holidays and the beginning of their new year.
One of my favorite bloggers is the Velveteen Rabbi, and she is posting every day on a different word related to the spiritual practices in this last month – not unlike the Christian practice of Lent leading up to Holy Week. I’ve decided to join this little venture, and day one’s word is prepare.
I like to prepare. Preparation makes me feel in control. I feel like I can minimize the surprises if I’ve thought through every possible outcome. The thing about spiritual preparation is that it’s the opposite – it’s preparing oneself to be surprised by God. I’m preparing this month to listen to God, to be open to God’s activity and to go where God wants me to go, even if that’s something that I’ve never thought of.