Thursday, February 9, 2012

February 8 -

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. - Romans 12:9-21

If there is one thing I can count on about the Bible, it is that it is so often counterintuitive. Old Testament, New Testament, it doesn't matter; what seems to be the natural bent of humanity is uprooted, turned on its head and told to grow. This is one of those passages and it sort of takes the starch out of me to contemplate it.

One of the most natural reactions in the world is to want to hurt someone who has hurt me. "Turn the other cheek" is a very difficult concept for me because often it makes me feel like I'm doing a Linda Blair imitation from The Exorcist.  If I turn the other cheek, as Jesus told it and Paul restated it, aren't I encouraging the other person to try it again at some point?  Is it presenting meekness as weakness? If I offer to feed someone who's being a royal pain, won't that give them the idea that I'm good for meals (figuratively, hopefully) and feel they may have found the free lunch counter?

It's hard to forgive, damnably hard. I don't really hate anybody, I don't think, but I do harbor resentments toward one or two people whom I wish I could confront and demand not just answers but apologies. It will never happen, but something inside me just doesn't want to let go of it. Perhaps the evil is in my own mind and letting go of it would mean a couple of foundational episodes in my life had no impact on my life at all -- but they did. Would I want to physically or emotionally hurt those who hurt me? I don't think so, but I certainly would like answers - answers I know I will never get, at least, not on this side of the veil.

Letting go is, I know, freeing to the spirit, the mind and the body. If it were easy, everybody would be doing it and, looking at the state of the world today, it's pretty obvious it ain't being done and perhaps will never be. That's what makes the message Jesus and Paul left for us so difficult. We don't have a lot of good examples except those like the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in South Africa that Desmond Tutu wrote about and others have reported. It wasn't totally about being forgiven but rather being heard, looking into the eyes of someone who has done horrible things and telling them how those things affected you that is freeing. Maybe that is what I'm seeking with my own episodes, just wanting to be heard and being able to then let go.

Living in the desert as I do, I wouldn't refuse to give someone water because they hurt me in some way years ago. I might make them wait for dinner until I was good and ready to fix it, but I would probably eventually feed them. Maybe that's the wrong thing to say -- I should probably feed them right off the bat and then get on with the other business, but I'm not a saint, much as I'd like to be. Still, if I could go that far, why not just go the rest of the way and be done with it? 

Perhaps what J & P want me to do is fix a meal, sit down and have a talk with those who I still hold resentments towards, not to lash out in anger but to calmly, rationally and quietly tell my story and how I felt about their participation in it. After all, it's me that is being hurt again by not letting it go. But maybe if I verbalize to them, even in absentia, it will leave me free to lay that burden down and get on with things -- like all that stuff Paul put in the opening paragraph. I truly believe I can't really fulfill those obligations with a clear mind and heart. I can work at them, maybe even do some of them, but I think it needs to be a whole package.

It's something to work toward, anyway. You can't conquer Mt. Everest unless you go to Nepal.

1 comment:

  1. Re: turning the other cheek - it is also about demanding you be treated as a full human being. See Walter Wink on the Third Way.