It is okay to be who you are as long as you are alive, because you are still becoming the person you were created to be. It’s important to know that, because otherwise you have to pretend- even to yourself- that you are perfect and don’t need to grow and change. It’s a lifelong process, a dance between grace and the limits of the hand we were dealt, that probably will still be happening at our moment of death.
I don’t know about afterward……I’m personally counting on Jesus, the expression of the unconditional Love of God, being God’s promise of forgiveness for those bad choices I made along the way to becoming the person I am meant to be. Remember the Prodigal Son story.
So, I was really struggling this week with the statement by a writer I respect: “That if God is just, there has to be a hell.” I’m wondering if that depends on your definition of “just.”
Justice to me means recognition of an evil that brings about change. The evil can be either personal or societal.
I don’t see it as a “get even” kind of thing. Plenty of people have hurt me, just as I have hurt others, but I don’t need them to suffer for it. I just want them to recognize it and sincerely regret it enough to not do it again to me or anyone else. I figure that’s what God wants from us.
I do suspect from my personal experience that a “balancing” plays out in life here in a lot of ways. Sometimes when someone hurts me, I have a sudden memory of having done the same thing to someone else. Depending on what it is, I may laugh, sigh, or feel heartbroken about my own blindness. But it frees me to not only let go of the hurt and temptation to judge, but to avoid doing it again myself.
I believe the whole point of justice isn’t retribution. Justice is about recognition, regret, forgiveness and change. It seems to me that in many ways it’s a dying to self and that we experience a lot of deaths and resurrections before the big one.
One note: Acts have consequences. The reason there are “Do Not” commandments is that those things have negative consequences not only for others, but for those who do them. The rules are for everyone’s protection. I believe the retribution is intrinsic and comes in this life.
WHEN LOVE BREAKS THROUGH, WE ARE SUDDENLY ABLE TO ACCEPT OUR WEAKNESSES AND FAULTS WITHOUT COMING UNGLUED.
“Hungers of the Heart” by Richard Watts.
Watt quotes David James Duncan, who tells about his search that finally brought him to hollowing out a place in his heart about the size of a thimble. Duncan continues, “When I was twenty, in India one day, I turned to God with embarrassed sincerity and said, ‘ Would you care to fill this little thimble with anything?’ and instantaneously, -almost absurdly really, – an undeniable, unimaginable, indescribable lake of peace and love landed on my head in reply.”
Watts continues: “This experience that Christians call grace breaks into the anxiety, confusion and self-doubt that trouble us and frees us to journey along a path toward becoming a real self. ….It need not be as sudden or dramatic as Duncan’s. We need not be “born again;” we live in God’s grace simply by virtue of having been born. Whether for us a breakthrough comes as we look up to the stars, ponder the mysteries of DNA, find someone who loves us, help heal another’s hurt, take a risk for justice, (recognize our limits and helplessness, hit bottom, are forgiven by someone we have harmed* my additions) the experience of being accepted restores us to our real selves.
The paradox is this: that when love breaks through, we are suddenly able to accept our weakness and faults without coming unglued.
We come to accept that even our best impulses are tainted by self-interest, that we pretend to know more than we really know, and to “have it all together” when we really don’t. We begin to see that our strengths are really also our pitfalls: ambition that enables us to achieve can result in a stunted personal life with little time for love and friendship, the pride that allows us to walk in dignity may also keep us from acknowledging our mistakes; the charm that opens doors for us may lapse into shallowness on which we depend without seeking deepening, growth and newness; the intellect in which we trust may mask a denial of the emotions, which one day erupt in us in discomfiting force. (Our tendency to respond to life emotionally may help us understand and reach out to those who are suffering, but since emotions are short term, we may make our choices based on them with consequences that are destructive in the long run.* my addition )
The wonder of grace is that we are increasingly able to see ourselves as we really are without despair.”
And that is the first step to becoming free to grow and change in ways that give us more balanced, appropriate and grace-filled responses to life.
I am paraphrasing some quotes that have proven true in my life:
Personal change and spiritual growth cannot happen without coming to peace with pain. (Michael Singer)
Emptiness and despair are not only experienced by those who have been traumatized, but also by those whose lives are full.
More than grief or fear, despair calls us to pay attention to and make meaning out of human suffering. It invites us to change our very selves by changing the way we see the world. When we persevere and don’t run away from our dark night, we can be moved to a muscular faith that has looked into the heart of darkness and emerged to affirm life. (Miriam Greenspan)
Twice over 76 years my inner life has come apart at the seams for no outwardly obvious reasons. I stayed functional, but slowed down my pace while I worked through it. Each time a counselor mostly just provided a safety valve and a non- judgemental listener, so I could hear myself as I read some relevant books, sorted out my pieces, threw some away, found new truths, new strengths, and pulled it all back together for a still imperfect, but more meaningful and personally satisfying way of being in the world. As painful and scary as these times were, they yielded wonderful fruit and I do not regret going through them. I don’t think I’m inferior because I needed that process. Everyone has challenges that they either struggle to conquer or they choose to deny and to settle for a safer, but emotionally and spiritually, poorer life. Eileen
(The Singer and Greenspan quotes were found on the Blog: Make Believe Boutique
I learned something important about myself this week. When I find myself frequently getting hyper irritated with those I love, it may be my way of handling depression. I am much more comfortable with anger than pain. Recognizing that and accepting the discomfort of a temporary situational depression has freed me from a terrible spell of being a super (b)witch. For which my family and friends are undoubtedly extremely grateful!
Accepting depression is different from wallowing in it or fighting it or projecting blame. A surprising benefit is that accepting a reality, even an unpleasant emotional one, lessens the pain and crippling side effects. My energies are no longer sapped by fighting myself or others, so uncomfortable or not, I am able to function much better.
Another important truth that has been a challenge for me is that need is not the same as love. And that those we love not only cannot, but should not be, whom we need them to be. Our challenge is to love people as God loves them, not because they fill our needs. Only God can do that.
Spirituality distinguishes education from transformation. Being informed is different from being transformed.
To be honest, I don’t see sin the same way I used to and I’ve discovered that we make our own private hells on earth, when we refuse to grow past needing into loving.
A view currently popular is that a world suffering from some original ancient ancestors’ screwing up isn’t reasonable or just and that tiny babies come into the world innocent and lovable.
I agree with both.
BUT, all tiny babies come into the world Needy with a capital N. Ask any parent. And some are needier than others, through no fault of their own. It’s just how nature is.
And NEED is the opposite of love, in fact it prevents us from loving.
We can’t experience the transforming joy of Christmas, until we recognize our neediness.
Note: needing to please others or even getting pleasure from doing for others is not always love. It can actually be a destructive enabling out of our own neediness.
At one point in my life, I recognized that I was a bottomless pit of needs and wants. And I felt totally unable to truly love- anyone, even parents, husband, children. I was like Snoopy, I loved humanity. It was people I couldn’t accept.
The paradox is this: unless we know, with mind, heart, and soul, that we are loved unconditionally, we cannot grow from needing to loving. But that requires recognizing and admitting with mind, heart, and soul that we are needy, not loving.
At the point when I recognized that I was too needy to love, I also recognized that there was not enough love in this imperfect world of imperfect people to free me . Fortunately for me, that is what Christmas is about.
Perfect Love for all of us came as a baby with human needs and offered us a Love that can set us free.
And that is the transforming joy of Christmas: Saving unconditional love that sets us free and gives us illustrated instructions on how to grow from need to love.
Joy to the world, for Love has come. Let us rejoice and open our hearts to receive it.
Come, Lord Jesus, free us to love.
If we are open to the grace to embrace our suffering, it stretches our capacity for joy. Suffering and Joy really are two sides of the same coin.
Whatever we experience contains the potential grace for our transformation.
The spiritual life is a process. We may be chosen, but we are not finished.
If it’s happening in this life, it’s temporary.
If we caused suffering, as soon as we are sorry, we have forgiveness, and grace and good can come from it.
When we suffer, we are not alone. Jesus has been there, suffered that, and now we are his tee shirt. Whatever is done to us is being done to Him.
Passion,death, resurrection should be one word. They are all part of one process. We experience many deaths and resurrections in our lives.
There is good somewhere in each experience, even if we cannot see it until we have eternity’s perspective.
There is no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal.