Good Friday

March 31, 2018

I had to write a reflection on the verse about “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do,” one of Jesus’ statements during the crucifixion.

This is what I wrote:

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1pieta1If you know me, you probably know that forgiveness is not my strong suit. Resentment is. I’m very good at resentment, and I’m VERY good at righteous anger. If I’m being wronged, or much more, if vulnerable people I’m worried about are being wronged, I can carry on my righteous anger for years.

I have spent most of my career working with, caring for, and advocating for marginalized children. I have known children who are trafficked, abused, neglected, and ignored. I have worked with children who are the victims of violence and no one cares because “that’s what happens when you live in the ghetto.”

My own personal resentments I can often forgive. Eventually and painfully but I can often do it. The righteous anger that comes from watching these children, children of God, live in such appalling conditions and understanding that it is just accepted; that they are just considered not worthy of more intervention. Well, that is a lot harder for me to let go of.

This is why I’m astounded at Jesus’ words. These people are not only executing him, they are trying to end his entire mission. He came for us, he suffered being human for us. He came because he loved us, and people were now executing him for this. He’s not the only one being wronged and hurt. All of his children are too.

I really can’t think of a better time for righteous anger. I really can’t think of a worse time for forgiveness.

And yet, Jesus’ words to God – and to us – are clear. Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.

That doesn’t usually matter to me. If they don’t know what they’re doing, well, they should figure it out. It’s not that hard to see the consequences of your actions (or inactions). That’s what goes through my mind when I’m asked to forgive. They’re hurting people. Why should I forgive that?

And yet Jesus brings his infinite love and mercy even as he is being executed. Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.

If someone were to ask me what the hardest part of the Bible was for me, I wouldn’t point to complicated doctrines or problems in translation. I would instead tell them that two statements, both from Jesus, are the reasons I struggle with the Bible. “Love your enemies,” and “Father, forgive them.”

This is why being a Christian is hard for me.

Jesus came to save us, because he loves us. He doesn’t want us to hurt, which somehow is why we are asked to forgive. He doesn’t want our hearts to be hard and cold. Jesus knew, even as he was dying, that forgiveness is what opens people up, both the forgivers and the forgiven.

With forgiveness, we have to face the pain that has been caused. But we also have a chance to heal from it, and to offer the grace that we’ve received to others. Not because they deserve it. But because none of us deserve us and Jesus brought us unimaginable grace instead.

 

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Uncertainty and Panic

March 18, 2018

1239517_10151842548105700_1262399502_nI put in an offer on a condo today. It’s small, because that’s what I can afford – around 700 square feet. But it would be mine. It’s light and sunny and centrally located. It’s not perfect of course, but it’s good.

So now I wait. And wait, and wait. I don’t know when I’ll hear or if I’ll hear yes or no. If I get it, I don’t know if I’ll like the neighbors, if they’ll be upset that Ruby (the dog) barks sometimes at the doorbell, or that I sometimes have tutoring students come to my house. I might really miss having a yard.

If I don’t get it, I don’t know if I keep trying to buy or if I should look at rentals.

I just don’t know the right thing to do. I don’t know if there IS a right thing to do. I don’t know why I’m so worried. I’m not going to be homeless. But I’m panicking. I think I had an actual panic attack today. Couldn’t get out of bed, breathing shallowly, finally took my anti-anxiety pills for the first time in months.

I HAVE TO believe that God is in control. I have to. But how do you force yourself to believe something? And when you have a history of anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts, then how do you do it? I know for some people, it’s not God, it’s karma, or the universe, or good thoughts. For me, it’s God. And if I say I believe that God loves me and takes care of me, how do I live like that?

I know that how I am living is unsustainable. I cannot literally panic every time there is a big change in my life. I can’t make myself sick with tension headaches out of worry. Or, I can, because I have been. But I don’t want to any more.

Maybe this St. Patrick’s Day will be the day I learn to worry like a normal person, and not in a way that feels like it’s destroying my life. Any tips?