The heart of true religion is spirituality. Then and only then can it become communal. If our faith communities are not made up of people with a humble personal relationship with God based on our own ongoing needing and receiving forgiveness, our faith communities will become legalistic, judgmental, unforgiving, about pride and power, and ultimately conflict ridden.
The heart of the spiritual life is a personal journey from recognizing our human weakness and failures, then experiencing forgiveness and unconditional love, to an ongoing response to this grace of becoming more and more able to love others in the same way. It’s an ongoing cycle of repentance and grace and growth in the freedom to love.
The heart of unconditional love is forgiveness. No one is perfect. We all need forgiveness and new beginnings throughout our lives. Truly accepting forgiveness and forgiving others are interdependent. And forgiveness and love are inseparable. We can’t accept or give one without the other.
Each day we are called to open our hearts and minds to God, to find God’s grace in: a first cup of coffee, morning birdsong and sunlight, star filled darkness, storms, fear, difficult people, beauty, a tearful child, a faithful pet, sharing our daily bread, our own and others’ brokenness, sorrow, joy, forgiving, laughter, loss, love, every moment, every human experience, every human relationship, and every human being. When we have “God” eyes, we see God and God’s love everywhere. When we are filled to overflowing, God’s love can pour out for everyone, even those who need our forgiveness.
Once again, a miracle: I, of the erratic memory, did remember to join in praying for peace this Sunday evening. I am unexpectedly peaceful about being a part of this. I decided long ago that inner peace is quiet joy. And that is exactly the gift this experience brought me. I got so caught up in prayer and reflection that I lost track of time. Prayer for both my own and others’ broken relationships stretched out as I thought of more and more needing healing. When I reached the stage of praying for peace for all people, because of my own recent experience of reconciliation, I actually felt hopeful that events small or large would begin to happen in the lives of every person to help them become a tiny bit more peaceful. It made me want to not only persevere, but to gather more and more others to commit to praying for peace on a regular basis.
This year, when Kozo, through his ‘B4Peace’ blogging project, invited us all to begin blogging about peace at least once a month, it challenged me to become more open and committed to the healing of some broken personal relationships. My most serious alienation happened about two years ago and had not only gone unresolved, but had caused complications with other relationships. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy, but if I was going to write about peace, I needed to at least start dealing with my own conflicts.
As I began praying for the grace to let go of my bitterness and allow God to heal the hurts that fed it, I was invited by friends to participate in a Spiritual Growth Class based on the book, Soul Feast, by Marjorie Thompson. I read the book and found it challenging and exciting, but one of the two facilitators of this class would be the man whose words had both wounded me and set off the very painful chain of events that resulted in more broken relationships. It hit me that this might be the answer to my prayer for grace and healing, so I joined the class, but chose a seat safely far down the long table from my adversary.
For several months, we managed to interact civilly, but cautiously. We tiptoed around anything relating to our controversy, while finding shared ideas on spirituality. I could tell that both of us were truly trying to apply the insights in the book.
Out of the blue, a conflict developed between my male nemesis and the female co-facilitator. He quickly became so defensive and verbally combative, that she left in the middle of the class. No one knew what to do, but when he began to just go on with the class, as if nothing had happened, I asked if we could pray for our friend who was hurting. I said that I didn’t believe any of us really wanted to hurt each other, but Christians or not, conflicts happened, and we all needed grace for healing. We said a simple prayer for healing of hurt and then we went on with the class.
Within two days time they had reconciled completely. He had called her after class. Though she didn’t take his call while she was still furious, by the next day, she had prayed her way through to understanding and forgiveness, and so had he when she went to see him.
As I witnessed this, I immediately realized that I should have gone to him soon after being hurt, explained how I felt, and trusted God to give us the grace to overcome our differences. But, I also recognized that I hadn’t, because he had unwittingly blundered into my worst minefield of insecurity. Now, in praying about and coming to grips with that particular personal demon, I finally experienced a greatly needed new freedom. Then, I was not only able to reconcile with him, but to share with our class how powerful seeing the human frailty of our co-facilitators being healed by their commitment to love was.
I don’t think any words in a book or sermon could have had that power. We really are called to flesh out the gospel for others, not by pretending to be perfect, but by our commitment to forgiveness. I am now praying and working on reconciliation of the other broken relationships set off by this one. Thanks again, Kozo for challenging me to do this.
I have been alienated from someone important to me for two years.
Everytime I tried to forgive, I just relived the hurt and injustice, and my resentment grew stronger and more entrenched.
Yesterday, I finally looked at it from a different viewpoint: How could I have handled my hurt in a way that could have given us an opportunity for healing and reconciliation instead of letting this fester into a poisonous wound?
I realized that a lot of harm could have been avoided, if I had been courageous enough to simply go immediately and explain how hurt I was and why.
I hope to do this now, but the conflict set off a chain of events that will now be much harder to heal than it would have been in the beginning.
I want to thank Kozo for his challenge to forgive in his blog, everyday gurus.
Some days I feel like I haven’t got a clue as to what actually matters in the BIG scheme of things. I know that my motives are suspect, mixed at best.
Is seeking to experience the presence of God simply spiritual hedonism, for pleasure or escape from pain?
The scripture from Ecclesiastes, “All is vanity,” really does seem to sum life up lately.
Marquand’s point of no return haunts me. At seventy-five I fear there’s not enough time left to become the person God created me to be, the person able to give what those God put in their care need.
The scriptures about loving other believers are another scary challenge. The truth is I don’t like very many people, but I tell myself that being committed to their well being is love.
I have some serious up close and personal unresolved conflicts with a few of them. I’m trying to work on seeing through their eyes, so I can forgive, and I have made some progress. But true reconciliation takes both sides seeing through the other’s eyes. I still feel too vulnerable to work with them on that.
Does self knowledge only free us to not judge others, if we can first forgive and not judge ourselves?
Can we grow and get free only after learning to live with the humbling knowledge of who we aren’t? Sometimes I get really weary of being an amateur human being.
I truly know that God loves me unconditionally. But, something in me just won’t give up wanting to be a person God can love for whom they became with His grace. Then, I remind myself that we are only called to play the hand we were dealt and I cling to the hope that I have played my pair of deuces as well as I could with the grace of God.
And then I come full circle to “All is vanity.”
Maybe that’s where we need to be, so we can let go of ego and let God do His thing.