Friday, March 05, 2010

summoning up an honest reflection.

Whatever happens to me in life, I try to hold onto the belief that despite the messy complications and uncomfortable madness littering the way, there is potential for sacred lessons to settle my soul.  All it takes is summoning up  the courage to take that first step, right?  

Sometimes I think I miss the lessons because I'm looking the other way, or I've detached from all that is happening around me.  It's not that I don't care.  It's more because I'm not ready, or I don't feel like I can handle coming face to face with the lessons.  Like every single human being, it comes down to protecting myself from harsh realities, exacerbated by a stubborn refusal to take any responsibility for the messes.

It's not my fault.  I didn't do anything wrong......... Don't blame me. Wow, we're quick to pass the buck aren't we??

New learning means change.  Sometimes change is not a welcome visitor because it has the capacity to hurt deeply.  Sometimes change is downright frightening.  It can foist me into unknown territory without the armour used to protect myself from owning up to what I have added to the messy complications. What cements my feet in hazy hesitation is the fear that I won't be accepted after I have apologized. I mean, what happens when I ask for forgiveness, but it isn't received?  What then?  Just the thought of it makes me feel bare.

I've been revisiting the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  The part in the story when the youngest son has hit rock bottom after losing all of his inheritance and belongings through selfish acts is where I'm stumbling. It irritates me.  I don't quite believe how smoothly it is all resolved.  The story is so short that it just doesn't feel like he's suffered enough.  Or maybe I'm just a masochist at heart.  

It seems like all of a sudden, after wallowing in his mistakes for a wee bit of time he thinks........... "ah, if I just go home and apologize..... own up to my fuck ups and all will be forgiven...."  It just seems too swift, too easy and kind of manipulative.  I mean, did he REALLY feel responsible thereby guilty enough for how much he had messed up??  He had hurt others so deeply by mistreating their generosity. He abandoned them and went off to live detached from the ones who matter, from the ones who love him the most.  Yet, in one swooping embrace with his father, who is grateful to have his son home alive and well, the Prodigal Son admits that he has sinned and states that he is not good enough to be his father's son.  Poof!  He is forgiven and life goes on. 

It seems to me that true forgiveness isn't that easy.  Giving it or receiving it.  However there is no way to weigh it or measure it to ensure its the right amount.  Mercy is a feeling, not a substance.  Or maybe it is.  Maybe it is a substance that has to fully fill one's heart before it feels legitimate.  A half-hearted apology spoken in harsh bursts sits like a lump in the pit of the stomach.  The kind of apology that is thrown out in words so light they float away in a soap bubble is so fleeting that it gets lost in the continuous messy complications and leaves a residue of questions. But when one asks for forgiveness in a timbre of honest vulnerability and is received by the same kind of openness, something melts.  Something transforms.  Maybe I just missed that layer of vulnerability woven into the story of the Prodigal Son.

The thing about parables is that they are springboard stories written in broad strokes, which leave room for discussion and ongoing contemplation. Their meaning as well as their impact alter in the mind of the reader because every time we revisit them, we are in a different place in our lives.  What jumps out at me today is different than what jumped out at me the last time I read it.  I have a new lens....... the angle is different.

Today, as I stand upon a crossroad littered with messy complications and uncomfortable madness, I realize that the part of the story I have the most difficulty with is also based on the character I can relate to the most.  And if I don't believe the Prodigal Son.... then perhaps I need to revisit my own believability.  It's a strange paradoxical feeling because right down to my toes, I believe I would absolutely forgive the people in my life whom I love unconditionally.  It feels like such a no brainer.  Of course I would forgive them! Wouldn't I? 

Then again, maybe they wouldn't believe me..... maybe I'm not as authentically believable as I think I am.  Maybe my actions don't appear to be redemptive to them.  Maybe my acceptance words don't hold the same substance as my non verbal actions..... my messages are mixed.  I need to look at whether or not I do have a full heart of forgiveness to offer. And maybe, just maybe I need to forgive myself first........ to empty my own heart by asking God to love me, the screw up that I am.    Can you forgive others if you don't know how to forgive yourself?

It should be so simple.  It never is.  We constantly run away from resolution, from owning up to our role in creating the messes.  Why?  Could it be that if we do, change will inevitably occur.  And it may just rock our worlds in ways we may not be prepared for.  Then again, doesn't transformative change hold the potential for sacred lessons to settle one's soul?  And isn't that we are constantly striving for..... to feel that sense of HOME?   

When forgiveness matters the most, when you are stripped down to your sparse broken self and the only thing you desire is to be loved, asking for it becomes as real as it ever can be.  Whether it fills the heart of another and takes them to a place of pure acceptance is beyond your control.  This is what is so damn frightening.  However, you'll never know unless you take the risk. Perhaps its best to start by slipping out of that Self encasement and having a real honest naked chat with God. 

I wonder if the Prodigal Son felt his strongly stirred desire for home settle in his soul when he fell into the warm embrace of his Father?  The parable doesn't tell us that.......... we have to look beyond the story and hope that he did....that THEY both did.


Reluctant Blogger said...

I have written about forgiveness before and it was interesting that people had very different ideas about it and its importance.

It is not something that is important for me. Someone once did something incredibly awful to me and yet I have never felt any need to forgive them. My recovery was all about me coming to terms with it and I can't see that anything from them would have helped or hindered. I find the whole concept very difficult to come to terms with and I just think it is not part of my psyche. I am a control freak, so to have to rely on someone else, for forgiveness or to forgive them, just does not fit with the way I feel about life. It leaves me at someone else's mercy and I do not want that.

I forgive myself very easily these days. If something is done then it is done. The trick is to think a bit more carefully on the next occasion. Beating myself up does nobody any favours, least of all myself.

I probably sound hard-hearted but I don't think I am. It's just that we are all different.

Certainly if someone I love does something to upset me, I yell at them for a few mins or sob privately and then I put it behind me. I don't expect to have to involve THEM in me moving on, I do it by myself.

swile67 said...

One of my fav. paintings...captures, I feel, the true essence of our heart's cry! Have you read Henri Nouwen's book on this painting?

Brother David said...

Another mystery to me is the father, he has enough money and servants that he could have sent them out to search for his son. He watched each day at the window, why did he not send his people out to look for him?
The son had to reach a place where he could choose to turn around.

Anonymous said...

Grace has new meaning to me.
As I've learned more about shame, and how to let go of that, I've learned more about grace, and how to accept it. seems to be one of those lessons that I have to re-learn over and over again. Like, every day when I wake up. :sigh:

Maybe God designed it that way.
Because if I could learn these huge lessons once and be done with it, I'd never go to Him again.

awareness said...

RB... Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. I've read them a few times, and I guess where I always end up is wondering if I tried to handle the whole forgiveness thing like you do, if I would continue to still feel connected to the person who has been mean to me. As much as I too am a control freak, I think I have to disconnect from the person emotionally or at least shift my own feelings. Though I know I have no real control over how another person acts, reacts etc, I wonder if I could feel a sense of resolution if I focused solely on myself.
I don't think you sound hard hearted. I think you sound much more pragmatic than I am. No right or wrong here. It comes down to healing and wholeness of oneself when it comes to the pain felt when wrongdoing happens.

thank you for a weekend of chewing it over..... :)

awareness said...

Karyne... I am reading Nouwen's book, HOME, Further Reflections on the Prodigal Son based on Rembrandt's painting. :) It is what has generated this post and the one I wrote today about the hole in the fence. :) I knew you'd pick up on that!!

The book is a hands on process.... each chapter, you're asked to journal your thoughts on his own thoughts about the parable and the painting etc. I thought it would be a good exercise to do for Lent.

awareness said...

David... good question! I hadn't thought of it. Now, that you bring it up? What a wise man that Father to let his loved one go off to learn on his own. It must've broken his heart. I assume he knew his son very well.... that there was a good chance that he would mess up. that takes courage to stand back to allow it to happen. Rather than saving him from hard life lessons by swooping in (like so many parents do now) and taking over, he let him go.

awareness said...

Jen... God is a good teacher and never coddles. :) We could learn much from his parenting skills!
I read recently that we run away from change....because it is what it is -- scary. However, grace is felt during changes and transitions. Silly us, this means we often run away from grace too.