Monday, February 11, 2013
Dave and I had been friends for close to ten years. About five years ago, Dave went through some really dramatic changes in his life. I offered as much support as I could but Dave gradually slipped into a life style that was destructive and dangerous. In short, he scared me. I tried reasoning; I tried yelling and screaming, group intervention, the whole nine yards but to no avail. Dave, as we used to say in the 70’s; “checked out.” It was then I learned that practicing “You are who you hang around with,” is much tougher than repeating it like some sort of mantra. During one final, emotional encounter, Dave and I parted ways and I haven’t heard from him for almost five years.
One thing I’ve been working on for a while is creating space inside of myself for health and wholeness and removing the things that keep me from reaching that place. So I lie in bed one night last week simply reflecting on life in general and Dave crossed my mind. Our parting wasn’t pleasant. It was necessary but not pleasant. Dave chose a path to walk I couldn’t abide by. Anyone who tells you love isn’t ever painful has never known true love. I’m not sure if I was angry, frustrated or a little of both but as I lie there last week it crossed my mind that I could have handled it better. My next thought was that after five long years I owed Dave an apology for the way I’d handled things.
I sent Dave an email late Monday evening. I told him I didn’t know how to begin so I simply told him I was sorry for the tone, tenor and some of the language I used during our last meeting. I told him I didn’t have a hidden agenda and that I didn’t have five months to live or anything like that. I handled the situation wrong and for that I was sorry. I have to tell you, I felt a large weight leave my shoulders when I hit the “send” button and then I forgot about it. I was surprised that Dave answered my email. I wasn’t expecting it and hadn’t written it to illicit a response. I wrote it because my heart told me it was the right thing to do. I was apologizing; not looking for forgiveness.
Jesus tells the story of the Pharisee and the publican. The Pharisee always made a point to walk to the front of the temple and make a show of his praise, a sorta “Hey God look at me!!! Thank goodness I’m not like any of these other people. I ALWAYS do the right things. I NEVER do this or that. Dang, I am an amazing person, aren’t I”
In the back of the temple sat the publican. Best I can figure is the publican was the guy was frowned upon socially, morally and professionally. They weren’t held in high self- esteem. They probably struggled a lot in life and had a hard time getting things right and most often “stepped in it” more often than not. Jesus says the publican sat in the back of the temple simply praying “God have mercy on me a sinner.” Jesus then asked the crowd which person prayers his Father heard. (I always see myself sitting somewhere in the middle of that temple – Not to humble but not too proud either.)I hadn’t told anyone about my apology letter, not even Joan, and I tell Joan everything. (Joan often raises her hand and shouts “TMI John, TMI)
Dave’s response was unnerving. In short he told me he was glad I had suffered and NO HE WOULDN’T FORGIVE ME. I felt bad for a few moments. Maybe he misunderstood or maybe I didn’t communicate clearly so I wrote back and told him I wasn’t asking for his forgiveness, I was apologizing for my actions. His forgiveness would be freely given or not. Like the publican I was acknowledging “my sin.” Dave’s response was two words.
Jesus tells us that each day we must pick our cross and follow his path. The Buddha teaches that before we reach that moment of joy and bliss that suffering is necessary. It’s the other side of forgiveness. It comes when we extend a hand and sincerely apologize and our apology is rebuffed. It doesn’t minimize the effect, but sometimes it hurts.
Namaste dear ones
Monday, February 04, 2013
I sat in church yesterday morning and listened to that beautiful reading from Paul 1st Corinthians Chapter 13. Student of the bible or not you've heard it at weddings and saw it on numerous greeting cards. "Love is patient, love is kind...." it opines. It tells us that if we are eloquent, wise and perceptive to all things in life and speak without love, well, we have nothing. It concludes with the mighty and thunderous line, "In short three things will last, faith, hope and love. Of these three love is the greatest." ( I realize my translation is loose, but you get the point.) From deep inside a quiet voice added "And faith is the most difficult."
I doubt myself a million times per day. Despite all the Divine reassurance available to me I still choose to go my own way and be left to my own devices. There is a proverb that states "Man plans and God laughs." It's as if I reach a point in my day to day life, lift my head skyward to say "Thanks so much. I'll take it from here."
Jesus once said "Blessed are those who cant see and still believe." I rarely count myself in that group. I'm more like Thomas who demanded to see the risen Jesus a sort of ancient "cash on the barrel head."
I monitor my intake, I exercise, I mediate and pray and if, after a prescribed period of time, mostly defined by me, things aren't going according to Hoyle, well its time to bail out. I must be doing something wrong and to trust a deity, a process or a practice may work for everyone else but not for me, thank you very much.
Love is ooey gooey. Faith is hard work. It's tough, it requires attention to detail and that nasty work "discipline." Faith means that no matter which way the wind is blowing you keep walking the same path over and over.
Yeah, faith is the most difficult but sandwiched in between it and love is the little noticed virtue of hope. Each morning I look skyward and I muster enough faith to hope that today is the day I see the path clearer.
I wont quit, nor will I give up. Some days that virtue of faith is like gnawing on a chunk of hard bread. It's cold comfort.
Sunday, February 03, 2013
Long before he became a country music legend, Kenny Rogers played in a rock band called The First Edition. One of their songs, “Tell It All Brother,” has a line within it that’s always haunted me. Simply put it says “And in the dungeons of your mind, who do you have chained to the wall?” We could tour my mind if you’d like but we might be here all day. If you want to learn how to hold grudges, I’m your guy. Hurt me, wound me, or offend me and I have a spot for you on that wall. It doesn’t have to be anything major either. It can be a slight or a mistaken offense and it will be a long time before I forgive you if ever. Thank goodness there aren’t too many people like me out here, huh? So as I’m sitting in church early this morning I had no trouble understanding the message that was written on my heart. “You won’t begin to heal until you learn to forgive.” Again, simply put, when there is so much judgment, animosity, prejudice and grudge holding going on inside of me is there really any room for goodness or healing?
I sat back in the pew and sighed. I’m not really sure where to begin. I get PO’d on a regular basis and it’s become a matter of practice to stay that way. A friend on Facebook posted a long rant yesterday on road rage and how she felt justified in its practice. That’s not what scared me. I found myself nodding right along with the ten people who added comments supporting the practice. We get mad and stay mad and with each successive slight or offense a small part of our hearts are partitioned off and we become more alienated.
Seriously friends, how many of you have tried every diet known in the cosmos, bought enough exercise DVD’s to have a healthy and profitable yard sale, and still never seen the scale move significantly and more importantly stay in a healthy range. With sincere apologies to the experts, carrot sticks, and celery served with Greek yogurts a bit more of a punishment than an opportunity. It’s like trying to cure cancer with ibuprofen. I often see myself standing in front of a door that’s padlocked and I’m holding this massive ring of keys. I keep trying to find the one that fits.
“You won’t begin to heal until you learn to forgive.”
As I tour my mind, looking at all those people I’ve nailed firmly to the wall I turn a corner and I see a large room and on that rooms wall is me, chained and unforgiving of myself. All my accumulated sins, transgressions and faults are there for all to see and I won’t forgive myself. Until I do I won’t ever even approach that elusive thing called health and happiness. Forgiveness creates a space inside of us that allows healing and once we embark on the road to health we can plant healthy behavior.
We have to believe in something. I call that something God and you may call that something other names but I’ll tell you unequivocally that unless that something is there to heal you your efforts are futile. There’s a passage in one of the Gospels where Jesus says he stands outside the door knocking, patiently waiting for us to let in the healing love. My poor eating habits, my reluctance to exercise are only symptoms of my unwillingness to forgive not only those around me, but to forgive myself.
“You won’t begin to heal until you learn to forgive.”
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