Tag Archives: forgiveness

Dear Facebook Friend,

Dear Facebook Friend,

I see you.

I see you through your Facebook posts and have been shocked, angered, insulted, and disheartened by so many of your political posts. I admit that I initially started this letter with the sole purpose of condemning you. All I wanted to do was to call you out, especially on your more antagonistic postings that I’ve encountered.

And here’s what confounds me.

Do we not both profess to be children of the Most High and followers of his son, Jesus Christ? Are we not both guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit?  I take note of your beautiful, faith-inspiring posts that encourage people to pray without ceasing, to forgive, to be selfless, to love one another, and to remember we are all doing the best that we can. 

But how do you reconcile in your heart your more judgmental and hateful sharings? Do you somehow perform a spiritual separation of church and state?  Shouldn’t your faith guide your actions in all facets of your life? 

And do you know what else I see, my friend? 

I see me.

I see my own hypocrisy in sizing up your devotion to Christ based on your Facebook posts. Who am I to believe I am more worthy, more perfect, more holy because of what I do or do not share?  How do I reconcile in my heart my more judgmental and hateful sharings? 

I can’t exactly cast that first stone, now can I? 

I am definitely not without fault.  I have intentionally posted things to stir up people’s emotions rather than build them up. I have made comments or given the thumbs up to many posts you would have found distasteful, insulting, or against your beliefs.  I have been quick to jump on certain band wagons, to be sure!

So, in the spirit of Lent, dear Friend, I ask for your forgiveness.  I have been wrong to judge you.  It was not my place and I am truly sorry. In the same light, I also forgive you. I will not harbor animosity, but will seek to understand what matters to you.

I extend to you this invitation: Let us find common ground in our faith where we can love one another despite our political affiliations, denominational divides, and even our preferred news channels. 

May we commit to fewer negative, sensational posts and choose the better option of sharing stories that reveal Christ’s light, joy, and love to the world. 

Love always,

Rebecca

 

Called to Forgive. Called to Love.

Called to Forgive. Called to Love.

I had done it again.

For the fourth time–not a second or third, but FOURTH time–I spilled tea in my car.  An entire thermos of tea.  I simply could not convince myself that wedging my leaky-lid thermos between my work bag and the seat of the car wasn’t the greatest idea ever.

And so, four times later, I felt like a total IDIOT.  Seriously, Rebecca?  You couldn’t learn after the first time? You are SO dumb!  You will obviously never, ever learn.  Just like with all the other stupid mistakes in your life you keep making. (My critic’s voice was impossible to silence.)

A co-worker asked later that day how I was doing. After confessing my pathetic, chronic idiocy, she, the passionate Pagan, questioned why I, the devout Christian, was unable to rise above self-deprecation and move into the belovedness of which my faith teaches I am worthy.  Why was I feeling so unworthy?

Whoa!  Mind blown.

I didn’t have an answer, but mulled over her words for the rest of the afternoon.

That evening my daughter and I went to the Ash Wednesday service at our church.  No sooner had we sat down did the pastor hand me and my daughter two copies of the Prayer of Confession requesting we read the highlighted section of each.  No hesitation on my part. I enjoy participating in worship. My daughter? Not so much.  So her copy went to a somewhat willing congregant behind us.

I then previewed my part: For the times we don’t love ourselves or others as you have taught us to love–  God, forgive us.

Mind blow, again.

Forgiveness.  I had forgotten to forgive myself AND to ask for forgiveness.  I had mostly forgotten to love myself, flaws and all.

ash wednesdayWhat a blessing to be surrounded by messengers of the Holy to call me back as a Christian to love the Lord my God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my strength and will all my mind; and, to love my neighbor as I love myself. (Luke 10:27)

This Lent may you, too, hear and perceive words of wisdom from God’s unexpected messengers! 

Prayer for the New Year

Prayer for the New Year

A Prayer of Faith

 We trust that beyond absence there is a presence.
That beyond the pain there can be healing.
That beyond the brokeness there can be wholeness.
That beyond the anger there may be peace.
That beyond the hurting there may be forgiveness.
That beyond the silence there may be the word.
That beyond the word there may be understanding.
That through understanding there is love.

                                                                                                            Author Unknown

Tar Pits and Dungeons

Tar Pits and Dungeons

Ouch!  My forgiveness class recently exposed me as quite the correction officer.  I wasn’t even aware I had taken up this career.

After a week of spiritual exercises to assist us in identifying those who have sinned against us, we gathered two weeks ago for a time of communial reflection on the forgiveness of others. The scripture that evening came from the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 19:21-35).

After listening to this parable in which a servant, who has been forgiven by the King of all his royal debts, turns around and beats a fellow servant who owes him money.  Worse, the ungrateful man has the other servant thrown in jail until the debt is repaid.

We were asked to consider who the “debtors” are in our lives and visualize the prisons that we have constructed within us and how we have used these dungeons or jails to detain our debtors.

I have never, ever considered the folks who have hurt me or let me down as prisoners, let alone MY prisoners!  Impossible, I first thought.

But if even the memory of these hurts remains festering in me, am I not in some way imprisoning, if anything, the memory?  And if I cannot let go of the hurt—if I am thinking of various individuals with “angry thoughts, bad wishes, or telling them off in my imagination”* then are they not indeed prisoners under my mental lock and key?

It was clear that night that I am also guilty of treating these people with “avoidance, emotional distancing and sniping remarks.”* Clearly my prison walls had long ago been constructed and cells, occupied!

I envisioned this prison of mine as a tar pit—sticky and nearly impossible to climb out of.  To make things worse, a beautiful garden surrounds the pit so that no one might suspect such a trecherous trap.  I have a reputation as a loving, peacekeeper to maintain, after all.

As our evening meditation continued I realized that I had many of my prisoners blindfolded, signifying their lack of awareness of their transgressions against me.  Imagine.  They don’t even know that they have caused me harm yet I have imprisoned them nonetheless.  Unwilling to speak my truth and expose my pain, I allow myself to suffer, then turn around and blame these individuals and refuse to grant them mercy.

So why do I keep my tar pit prison open?

Sadly, I admit I am drawn to picking at my emotional scabs.  See?  See the pain those people caused?  See how I still bleed?  Don’t you feel sorry for me?

I am attached and too invested in the emotional damage I’ve experienced.

“What would it be like,” we were asked  “to release all these prisoners, to forgive their debts, and set them free?  What would it feel like to come back tomorrow and find the dungeon empty?” *

In truth? My first thought was, “I’d be a jailer out of a job.  I’d have to repurpose my tar pit or labor to fill it in. Outrageous!”

Honestly at the time, I did not know if I could surrender my reasons for feeling sorry for myself or release my self-righteous anger.  The thought of letting my prisoners go began to feel like my tar pit would become my grave if I did.

Can you imagine?  I had become so attached to my pain that I was convinced it would be the death of me to give it all up!

Brutal, raw honesty.

That night as I fell asleep I prayerfully and courageously released my prisoners and set them free.  I pictured each person climbing out of that pit, myself included, for in truth this jailer had been imprisoned as well.

I woke up the next morning truly with a lighter heart.

Okay, so being the work in progress that I am, I may in time find reason to declare them all parole violators and haul them back to the pit, but for now…I am feeling an incredible sense of grace and peace and for this I am ever grateful.

“The Spirit of THE LORD JEHOVAH is upon me, and because of this he has anointed me to preach The Good News to the poor; he has sent me to heal broken hearts and to proclaim liberty to captives, vision to the blind, and to restore the crushed with forgiveness…” Luke 4:18, From the Aramaic Bible in Plain English

* From Companions in Christ, Way of Forgiveness, study guide.

Guilt, Shame, and the Search for an Absorbent Heart

Guilt, Shame, and the Search for an Absorbent Heart
The forgiveness class I’m taking is kicking my spiritual ass.

Two weeks ago, at the start of Lent, we looked at shame and guilt in our lives.  And this past week? Anger.

Super light topics of introspection, to be sure.  I mean, who doesn’t LOVE dredging up past ridicule, regrets, humiliation, scandal, embarrassments, family secrets, and mistakes?  Who in their right mind would pass up the opportunity to admit one’s propensity for irritation, frustration, or rage?

Truth be told, dredging and admitting is exactly what we must do.  “Why?” you ask.

A significant part of spiritual growth is seeing ourselves from a fresh and honest perspective.

It is certainly NOT easy.

Being exposed to hidden truths is often agonizing and emotionally exhausting.  Why else would most people chose denial over self-awareness, to remain emotionally unconcious instead of becoming spiritually wakened?

Believe me, during that first week of Lent, denial was looking rather tempting.  Me? Live with guilt or shame? That’s ridiculous!

Courageously, however, with each daily spiritual exercise I began to expose the guilt and shame in my life and observe an interconnection between the two.  It was curious to notice how one would often bleed into the other as my life’s story unfolded.  At times shame led to feelings of guilt; in others, guilt reemerged as shame .

I was shamed in front of my family by my grandmother, for instance, for throwing out shriveled up carrots which she in turn pulled out of the compost and served for dinner. Each time I am wasteful now, I am aware that the guilt I feel is associated with that childhood shame.

And that’s just over carrots!  Imagine the emotional impact of the larger, even irreversible mistakes I have made.

As a final exercise, we were to consider what it would take to be more deeply steeped in Jesus’ love.

Steeped in Divine Love?

Impossible, I thought.    In the areas of my greatest shame or guilt,  I have coated myself in a layer of unworthiness, making me nothing short of nonabsorbent.

Ultimately, I have allowed myself to become love-proof, unwilling to receive God’s healing grace.

At the closing of our weekly time together, we were asked to select a small stone from a basket and after some time in silence, return it to the altar naming that which we seek to release or gain this Lent.

I laid my stone down, desiring a more permeable self—an absorbent heart eager to steep in God’s Divine Love.

Before departing that evening, at least one of the participants retrieved her stone from the altar. I’ll admit, I was tempted to do the same. Mine was a beautiful rock after all.

But it dawned on me that there are too many things I’ve been carrying around.  I opted instead to travel a bit lighter this Lent, leaving room for the Holy Spirit to do her work.