Tag Archives: relationships

Ink Blots (Part 2 of 3): The Art of Forgiving

Ink blots2

Forgive: (verb) 1. to stop feeling anger toward someone who has done something wrong 2. to stop blaming someone 3. to stop feeling anger about something 4. to stop requiring payment of money or something that is owed. Definition from Merriam Webster’s Dictionary

 

To be completely honest, I have felt so angry at someone for hurting me in some way that it very really evokes a visceral impulse of wanting to hurt them, badly. I have not acted out these impulses in any devastating manner, except to play it out in my head. In my sequence of thought, I reach for something, preferably a rock, brick or iron frying pan and hit the person repeatedly. While I daydream the scene, I can literally feel my muscles flex and tense, as adrenalin surges through my veins. There is an initial sense of release in unclenching my fists and exhaling, only after I imagine the object thrown striking my intended target and then watching the person crumple to the ground defeated. In my obsessive effort to make myself feel better (in my imagined reality of revenge), I find myself smiling at the limp person laying at my feet. I don’t consider myself a vicious victor but a justified woman, ready to turn and walk away – feeling fine. God help me!

Can we all agree that my freakish fantasy simply exposes the serious need all humanity has for wanting to feel vindicated? In the vein of full disclosure, I’ve spent a lot of time this year feeling really angry about being hurt by people who may or may not have known what they were doing. These circumstances made me definitely doubt that God knew what He was doing. During the end of this past summer, I was walking down the street, desperately attempting internally to process things. I mumbled aloud, “If only I had a stone ….” I pictured myself picking up a stone and, then, in the midst of my daydreaming, I heard Jesus say, “You who are without sin, throw the first stone” (John 8:7). I think I froze for a moment on the sidewalk, even glancing around me to see if anyone else was aware of what just happened inside me. Until then, I had not connected my primitive impulse to throw something at someone with the epic words that Jesus spoke thousands of years ago. I had conjured up throwing stones because it simply seemed like an easily retrievable hard object that could easily do damage. Obviously, I’m not the first person to think of that idea. This is an age old dilemma.

I went back to read the Biblical passage and realized a deeper truth to be grasped. In the Biblical passage, Jesus is confronted by folks who use the old mosaic law as their justifying effort to throw stones. It seems that they actually cared less about the woman caught in adultery, but that they wanted to make sure Jesus was on their side to condemn her too. It was like Jesus was looking right at me and asking me if I was without sin. And even though I’m not, I knew Jesus was asking me to forgive because of how I’ve been forgiven by Him. I took note of the verse “one by one, they walked away, beginning with the oldest” (John 8:9). Sure, there is the impulse to want pay back; but maturity quickly reframes that desire to want something else, to not cower over someone but to give them space to meet privately with Jesus. I felt so childish and ashamed of my foolish inner functioning. I can’t hide my true feelings from God. He sees and hears all that goes on inside my head; and most significantly, He knows my heart. I felt like my spirit crumpled to the ground that day in a way it never had before and I laid in a heap at the Lord’s feet. John’s gospels records that the woman was left alone with Jesus after everyone walked away. Jesus lovingly spoke to her and did not condemn her. I envisioned myself to be that woman as much as one of the crowd. In fact, the passage ends with Jesus telling the woman to walk away as well. He said “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11b).

Forgiving is a stop and go reality. It’s ironic, for sure, but also makes complete sense, depending on one’s vantage point. On one hand, it is not fair. Where is the justice in not punishing the wrong doer? Yet, it is freedom to move on/away from fixating on a person, action or situation, and to focus on the bigger picture God has created for us to envision AND act out. No doubt about it, forgiving is hard work. It is our life’s work to implement such controversial practice. We want to keep looking back at the object or our wrath and pain and reach for another object that can help inflict some sort of comparable pain to punish the transgressor, again and again. Let it be known, it was extremely difficult for Jesus to forgive. It was His life’s work and it cost Him His life. He endured the cross as payment for our transgressions that would have required us to be put to death. He died in our place; because He wanted to restore humanity to be something capable of living beyond frantic impulses. He wanted to make us capable of loving, despite what’s been done.

He is our example and intercessor. When I want to throw stones, He intercedes to turn my attention towards something better. Likewise, when I feel like stones threaten to crush my self-concept, He intercedes to prove who He is. God is love. In forgiving us, God does not deny our wrong doings, or the serious consequences that can ensue; His love gives us the capacity to stop repeating the wrong doings and stop obsessing about the wrong that has been done. The anger and hurt I harbor in my heart takes up space that God so earnestly wants to replace with His joy. There has to be an exchange. The more I can forgive (and accept that I’m forgiven), the more joy will live inside me. Maybe this seems ridiculous to you as you read this. But I have experienced a new kind of liberating grace this year that compels me to see God for who He really is – capable of forgiving. This perception then allows me to see myself and others as God sees all of us – capable of being forgiven. I think forgiving is the hardest thing to do in anyone’s life; but I think I’m on the path towards maturing, developing a more focused response to let go of my anger and pain in order to embrace the joy God wants so much to give me…so I can in turn pass along that joy to others who are worn out from holding so tightly onto anger and hurt too.

 

Resources:

  1. Artwork in process; Sketch #2 by Jamie Wasson 2014
  2. Restorative Justice
  3. Prodigal God by Tim Keller
  4. The Forgiving Life: A pathway to Overcoming Resentment and Creating A Legacy of Love by Robert Enright

 

 

 

Can You Hear It?

In the Woods

One Lenten season a few years back, I decided to give up noise. Yes, that’s right – noise. This may seem like a ridiculous sacrifice during such a sacred journey. In some ways, it was. I guess it all stemmed from the feeling that the world around me was too dissident and was distracting me from hearing the Spirit within me. So I pledged during Lent to take fifteen minutes a day, plug my ears and sit quietly and pay attention to my interior workings. The honest truth is that this was much harder than I ever expected. Living at that time amid an urban neighborhood with tightly packed houses and shops and many narrow streets, the sounds of city life did not disappear completely. Even with my ears plugged while I sat on my bed, I could still hear the muffled tones of sirens, the rev of a bus engine or motorcycle, a dog barking or whatever other city antics continued to get my attention. My meditative attempts to reflect on what the Spirit within me was trying to tell me seemed to always be redirected to what the world was declaring all around me. My Lenten practice quickly became a dreaded challenge rather than an encouraging opportunity to go deeper with Christ. I found myself resenting not only the sounds of the world around me but the chatter in my own head space too. Why wasn’t I able to shut out the noise? Then I realized, maybe I’m not supposed to. Contemplative prayer is a progressive practice that involves many layers of listening and being quiet. I didn’t have to categorize “hearing” into all or nothing terms. In fact, there seems to be something profound in hearing the message behind the sounds all around me as well as in me

What I hear (or allow myself to hear) can be directly connected to what I understand or perceive is happening around me and in me. Mis-hearing something/someone certainly impacts perception and has mis-hap ramifications. As I sit and type this, the sounds around me prove what season it is and how the seasons are changing. Whether I want them to or not, they are. Am I willing to acknowledge how life changes and will I celebrate the new stage that is presenting itself to me for a purposeful effect? Yes, as I type this and pause to form my next thought, I can hear the sound of geese flying together, signifying that migration is occurring. I can hear the sound of dried leaves scooting across the ground; and I can hear the scraping sound of a rake pulling the fallen leaves into a pile somewhere. I can hear the sound of the mail truck parking, the side door opening and the postal worker readying to make the rounds to deliver today’s mail. These sounds are all about accepting the present of what is now as well as preparation for what is to come next. I can’t ignore these sounds if I want to understand what life is about.

Listening is about acknowledging a relationship is real – is really happening. Shutting out the sounds from the world around me rejects that I have any relationship with the space where God has placed me. The Spirit within me speaks to me to listen to what is going on in the world, so I can respond accordingly – according to the relevance of what Jesus would say or do. If I ignore the reality of what is happening in the world, I miss out on the reality of being Jesus. It can start simply by paying attention to what I hear right here, right now and praising and/or praying in response to what I hear. Jesus talked a lot about listening while He was here on earth. His journey to the cross and out of the tomb was God’s response to the world’s plea for redemption. Jesus now prompts us to pay attention to the seasonal sounds of people and places – in order to respond with timely care and to keep an ear out for when He will return to earth again. I’m listening. I’m asking the Spirit to help me interpret what I hear. It is important to take time to sit still and listen as much as it is imperative to get up and speak. There are seasons to our day, week, year etc., calling us to do this in turn. As long as the world keeps turning, there will always be noise. And as long as I keep asking the Spirit to help me listen, I’ll be able to discern the sounds, discern the seasons. I’m not advocating for hyper-vigilance in this reflection – for such over-sensitivity to sounds has its own message to be discerned and responded to with care and comfort. Ears that experience extended and extreme decibel stimulation can become disabled and unable to listen accurately for the long haul. I’m referring to acutely listening to the outward and inward voices that seek to gain our allegiance and choosing to predominately listen to the voice that proclaims life. Jesus came to bring harmony to the dissident world – starting in my own heart. The multi-dimensional relationships that exist within me and around me are all connected and can become a competing and cumbersome chatterbox to deal with, if I don’t allow the Spirit/Jesus to be the filter through which I make sense of what I hear.

References:

  1. In the woods; photo by Jamie Wasson 2014
  2. Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila
  3. On Poetry by T. S. Eliot

Jewelry Box

Jewelry Box

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary.; they will walk and not be faint.”  Isaiah 40:31

At times, we falter in seeing ourselves the way God sees us. We deny our identity and capacity by remaining static in a world wherein we were meant to soar…perhaps the following poem sums up how you, as I, can easily shut down. In that stillness, listen closely and hear God speak to you.

I close my body up,

Whenever you’re around.

The way you look at me

Makes my eyes hit the ground.

I will not let myself see any reason why you want me.

I’m a fallen angel.

My brain’s a commuter train.

My heart’s a station stop.

Big ideas roll down town,

And then off they drop.

I know it’s okay to be shy, but I feel like I’ve become a lie –

I’m a fallen angel.

All that I want, all I really want is something

More than a sensual sting…

What I want, what I really really want is a spiritual fling.

But oh well,

I’m a fallen angel.

But you say,

“It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay,

It’s okay.

Turn your eyes towards the sky.”

You again say,

“It’s okay it’s okay, it’s okay,

Open up your wings and fly,

Because you’re an angel, a beautiful angel.”

Reference:s

  1. Self Portrait; painting by Jamie Wasson 1994
  2. Jewelry Box; poem by Jamie Wasson 2008