Tag Archives: forgiveness

I Will Have Mercy

What do you deserve?

Matthew 9:13

But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

I read a lot of rants on Facebook and hear many more on television. Many people are angry. And it seems that spouting off insults on posts, interviews, or in debates, makes them feel better, somehow. They can complain about the smallest, most trivial things, or about much bigger and more serious problems – and, yet, the tone seems to remain the same. Some people are genuinely discontent, and rightfully so, and they raise their voices seeking for justice. But, too often, those quests for justice just sound like so many people being mad and fuming about it.

It looks like all the world, and yes, that includes me, indulges in angry pleasures.

Why? Why do we make demands with steel in our eyes and fire in our words? Why are we so bothered with other people’s small inconsiderations that we feel compelled to type it out in a message to all of our friends and acquaintances? Why are we drawn to people who use tough and mean language with their fingers pointing, people who tell us over and over again that we deserve more, that we deserve better? Why do we continually find fault in others when we are discontent, blaming other people, organizations, or groups when we aren’t getting what we want?

Do we even know what we want?

“I shouldn’t have to pay this much for cable television, it’s ridiculous – who’s profiting from that?!”

“Why do I have to stand in line forever to upgrade my cell phone – don’t these people know that I have a life?!”

“How come that person on government assistance has a new gaming system and I don’t? That’s not fair!”

“How come that rich person gets to vacation in exotic places and I don’t? That’s not fair!”

“How come people who enter this country illegally are getting free healthcare while I have to pay these huge co-pays for mine?! They’re ruining this country!”

“Why do people get upset when we call cops/CEOs/Democrats/Republicans pigs – don’t they know that none of them give a damn about real people?! They’re selfish monsters!”

“Why do people get offended when we call Muslim people terrorists – weren’t the people who attacked us and killed thousands of Americans Muslim, doing it in the name of their religion?! They all want to kill us!”

Okay, some of those lines that I’ve made into quotes are controversial, I know. But… Don’t we just seem to love controversy? Doesn’t it seem like people enjoy stirring the pot of discord and conflict? Protesters and politicians looking to get some air time and notoriety, being as loud and brash as they possibly can be in order to tear others down – as long as they can stand tall on the rubble with their microphones, megaphones, and fingers pointing down?

And, yes, that’s my rant for the day. I am guilty. And I’m not proud.

What are we supposed to do with all of this? Obviously, there is injustice in the world, in our own country, and, yes, in our own homes. But, the injustice has nothing to do with material things. If what we want is more and better material things, then we will always be discontent. We will always want more and never be satisfied. We will be breeding discord and anger, not only in our streets and world, but also in our own hearts. We will be trying to satisfy a real and deep hunger with fantasy food and poison.

Possessions can never make you happy. Nothing can make you happy. You either choose to be open to joy and to receive it into your heart – or you spend your life looking for where you are lacking in stuff, where you are being shortchanged.

Jesus knew the deepest and truest joy. He did not doubt Infinite Love. His hope was strong in the beatific vision. But, yes, it’s true – even he was angry. Even he mourned. Even he was tempted to run from suffering. Did he not whip the money changers out of the Temple? Did he not sorrow that he could not gather all of God’s people into his embrace? Did he not sharply chastise Peter for speaking aloud the thought that he, Jesus, should be above suffering? Being fully human, this is what we would expect. But, this is not how Jesus chose to live his life every day. These were moments of justified anger, very real sadness, and very real fear. As human beings, we also experience these moments in our own lives. But, to truly imitate Christ, we will not let the anger, sorrow, or fear overwhelm us, overriding our faith, hope, and love.

For Jesus is mercy. The heart of Christ, the heart of Christianity, is loving forgiveness. That’s what makes following Christ such a difficult and daily challenge for us. If we could simply recite our way into joy, into goodness and righteousness, then we would only have to tick off our prayers and memorize pages of Scripture. But, what does that have to do with mercy? If we cannot forgive our housemate for being sloppy, or our family member for being forgetful, or our friend for being irritable, then how can we call ourselves Christians?

If we cannot mercifully consider all of the complicated aspects of another person’s life, especially a person who has done us a gravely serious wrong, then why do we think that we deserve mercy?

Perhaps, the problem is that we don’t want mercy. Not really. We want justice. We demand justice. We believe that, if everything was taken into account, then the columns would add up in our favor and we would be proven to be superior and deserving of better things. We believe that the facts in evidence show that we are the righteous ones, we are the ones living lives deserving of every pleasure and privilege. We don’t believe that we need mercy at all. We think that we don’t need to be forgiven – so why on earth should we forgive anyone else?

I can’t argue out an explanation of why. This is not a matter for systematic debate, the scoring of points, or even the cold application of reason. This is a matter of honest, gutwrenching truth. I am a sinner. You are a sinner. We are sinners. I don’t deserve anything that I have. The possessions that I own and the good people in my life who treat me well do not exist because of justice. If everyone lived only according to merit, then I know that I would be alone. I would be naked and afraid. I would hunger and thirst and never be satisfied.

I don’t want to live in a just world. I want to live in a merciful world. Because that is the world in which I live – you are not you because you fashioned yourself and goodness doesn’t exist because you deserve it. You are here because God wants you to be here. And every single person on the planet is here because God wants each and every person to be here. Whether you like it or not.

The point of the world isn’t to “like” some things and angrily comment about others, trying to be as loud as you can be. The point of the world is to be. Because God wants it to be. Tragically, human beings have never been satisfied with that. Human beings have always wanted something other than what they have. We separate ourselves from what God wants – that’s what sin is – and we turn the world into a place where there is, not only injustice, but also a horrible resistance to mercy. Most people who don’t let Christ into their lives do so because of this resistance to mercy. We don’t want to admit, to acknowledge, that we are sinners in need of forgiveness – and that that need of forgiveness is a need to forgive others as well as ourselves. Mercy is the reason that we exist, and mercy is the only true way to real joy. Everything else is a lot of noise… “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”[1]

© 2015 Christina Chase

 


 

[1] William Shakespeare: Macbeth,  Act 5, Scene 5

Advertisements

For the Faithful Fail

Q: What does it take for evil to prevail?

A: For the good to do nothing.

Q: What, then, happens to the good?…

Psalms 12:1-2

  1. Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.

 

They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.

How much of what you deal with every day is truth and how much is error and deception? When we hear something over and over, from different sources in different places, we tend to take it as reality, without really thinking about it ourselves. Have the different sources just been repeating what they heard without thinking for themselves, likewise? Take, for example, religion.

Going to church

Perhaps, you have heard that church is for sinners – this from God-believing people who don’t feel the need to attend a church. My great-aunt Gini told me this several times. At first, I tried to rebuke her statement because she was trying to use it to prove that attendance of worship services should not be an integral, or required, part of faith. But, I soon saw my error. She was saying something very true: Church, or church attendance, or religion itself, is for sinners. And every human being is a sinner, because no human being lives up to the fullness of his or her potential every moment of every day.

Accepting the truth

To be a sinner is not to be damned to Hell for eternity. To be a sinner is to be a fallen human – and we are all fallen. To recognize and acknowledge oneself as a sinner is to understand the divide between human and divine, between temporal love and eternal love, between partial beauty and goodness and the fullness of beauty and goodness. This doesn’t mean that the divide is impossible to traverse – we, as humans, do not possess the inherent ability, but God grants us the ability through His Son, Jesus Christ, who is fully human and fully divine. Through his life, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension and through our acceptance and reception of the divine mercy and love that pours forth from this Paschal Mystery through Christ’s Mystical Body, we are saved, we are redeemed.

Listening and understanding

See? You might hear and repeat that “church is for sinners” and think that you don’t need to go to worship service – but you don’t understand what a sinner is or what church is. As goodhearted a person as you may be, you will be dealing in errors and lies. After realizing this, I responded to my aunt’s statement by saying, “Yep. That’s why I go to church. Because I’m a sinner.” I didn’t point fingers at her – I pointed them at me.

“God is for sissies”

Or, perhaps you have heard that religion itself – that the worship of God – is for the frightened and weak-minded, the elderly, the suffering, the disabled, and the poor. This false idea is much harder to rebut in the world, though it must be rebuked if we are to live in the truth. The belief in and worship of God, or religion as I will call it here, is not merely a comforting mythology to keep the less-endowed people from feeling the sorrow of their pathetic lives. How arrogant and deceitful a thought!

Prove it

Yet, how do we convince the self-deceived liars about the truth of religion?

Well, we certainly can’t do it by living in lies and errors ourselves. We can’t demonstrate to the world the profound and universal power of religion for good, for beauty, for justice and for love if we gossip after church about all the things that we think other people are doing wrong in their lives, gossiping in lowered voices lest those other people hear us.

We can’t prove to the world the transcendent and imminent presence of God who loves every human being infinitely and intimately if we pass by panhandlers on the street with shameful looks, wondering what drug addiction those beggars are trying to use our money to fill, or if we respond to other calls for charitable donations with a closed, cautious wallet, stating that we can’t afford to help – and then open our wallets at Starbucks or for a third, fifth, 27th (?) pair of shoes.

We can’t show the deep and abiding need for God and God’s mercy in every human being, even the richest and most successful, if we do not ourselves allow God’s mercy to flower in us so that we may forgive those who have hurt us, or even just irritated us, and be healed by that forgiving.

Good people

I just watched the movie Philomena. Although I would not use it specifically as Catholic apologetics, I would share with you the “little old Irish woman” as she is portrayed in the film as an example of a healthy Catholic response of truth in a world full of deception, anger, shamed secrets, and lies. She is a devoutly believing Catholic and, it would seem, a very simple human being. She is certainly not well-educated or well-versed, and she is not going to be able to rebut her atheist, fallen-away Catholic companion with well-reasoned arguments or clever repartée.

But, she is very straightforward and humble. She is not afraid to be a sinner – because she knows that everyone is – and, so, too, she is not afraid of sinners. She is horribly wronged, wounded, betrayed, and deceived by nuns who profess the faith that she loves. And she is angry. So angry that, even though she seeks the healing of the Sacraments of her Church, she passes by them, so overcome with emotions is she. In the end, however, she is able to do something that the witty, atheistic reporter accompanying her cannot: she can forgive.

Forgiving the nuns is hard for her, one of the hardest things that she’s ever done, but it is how she lives. Forgiveness is how she lives because she has been living deep and true belief in and worship of God all of her life. While some Catholics, like the reporter, have been swayed by their own disappointments, failures, cynicism, and the clever deceptions of the world to deny their faith and deny God, Philomena has remained true. And he, the reporter, is smart enough to see the amazing and powerful value of Philomena’s faith.

Blessed are the poor – not because they can be easily fooled into believing comforting and valuable fairytales, oh no. Blessed are the poor because they are not easily fooled into believing that God, who is the source of all existence and the truth of every loving life, is nothing but trivial nonsense.

© 2014 Christina Chase

Good Stewards of the Manifold

The one thing of which you’ll never run out.

1 Peter 4:10                                                                   

As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

We are finite creatures living in the limits of space time. We can only eat so much, only move so much, and only own so much. No more. But… How much can we love?

It seems that even in our ability to love there is a limit. We can love our family and our friends – but not our enemies. And yet, Christians are told precisely to do that. We can love our loved ones with our whole selves, as we may say – but, yet, we do not give of ourselves completely, for we believe that we must keep something in reserve for ourselves. If we have nothing for ourselves, what do we have to give? And yet, Christians are told to give the entirety of their beings, the entirety of their lives, to God and so, also, to the loving service of our fellow human beings. To love the Lord, our God, with all of our hearts, with all of our minds, with all of our strength, and with all of our souls, is to hold absolutely nothing in reserve for ourselves. But, surely, if we do that, we won’t be able to survive, right?

The wonder and beauty of love is that it is unlimited. Though we are, most certainly, limited creatures with limited abilities, true love, real love, is purely of God – who is perfectly unlimited. Because of our flawed nature, we can only open ourselves up so much to the reception of God’s love, which is always and everywhere pouring relentlessly upon everyone. But, even just a little bit of perfection goes a long way. It depends upon whether or not we are truly allowing, with the best of our abilities, God’s love to love us. To move us. To shape us. To feed us. To heal us. To guide us and guard us. To revolutionize us. God’s love is not something that we can own or even hold onto. God’s love, like the Holy Spirit, flows without ceasing. You can take a cup of water out of a stream, but, if you do so, that water is no longer a stream. If we hold on too tightly to the feeling of lovingness, it ceases to be loving.

I would like to feel always the warmth and peace that floods me in the rare moments of deep and grace filled prayer. However, the moment that I recognize the “feeling” and desire to keep it, the warmth and peace changes into a mere sensation and not the actual goodness of deep prayer itself. I’ve stolen water from the stream, if you will, and am disappointed to look down into my cup and realize that the stream is not in there. So, too, with love. When I love someone – (no, wait, when I am loving someone, for love is not something passive with which I should identify my relationships with certain people, so let me make it clear that love is a verb). When I am loving someone, God’s love is being received by me and flowing through me to the other. Love is eternal, so there is no stopping. Love is infinite, so there is no damming up.

This is why forgiveness is key in Christianity – because Christianity is most fully and completely about the receiving and giving of God’s love. If someone hurts us, we become less willing to engage in loving that person – and that’s a dam in the flow of divine love. Only forgiveness can break down the dam and restore the stream. Perhaps, it’s almost as though the hurt caused by the other leads us to think that we need more of God’s love for ourselves in order to make up for that hurt. But, of course, we can never receive more of God’s love. There is only one quantity of God’s love that we are given: all of it. This is why Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, surrenders his life completely on the Cross. We are to understand through his sacrifice, and to be reminded by every image of a crucifix, how much God loves us. Completely. As I told my nephews when they were very little, Jesus on the Cross is God’s way of telling us, “I love you thiiiis much” – and his hands hold no limit, they are pointing out infinitely. Our hands, too, must hold no limit, for, if we are truly to be loving, then we must give without ceasing. It is the flow of love that heals us, that binds every wound, and that gives us the joy and peace that mere survival cannot give. It is only through the flow of loving that we are fully human, fully alive – that we are fulfilled as the beings that we eternally are: images of God.

May all of us open our minds and our hearts to receive the love of God and, by so receiving, let us all be good stewards and give fully, wholeheartedly, of what we are being given. Let us give fully to God and not let the fear of the unknown or the limits of mere practicality impede the gift. This is how it should be. If what we call love is to really be love, then there can be nothing partial or part-time about it – no stops, no dams. By allowing God’s love to flow, we become beings who are loving all of God’s Creation, loving every thing, tiny or gargantuan, and loving everyone – because God does.

 

© Christina Chase 2014

All Rights Reserved

Them That Love Me

Who loves God? (Hands shook up in the air amid choruses of “Oo, oo, I do! I do!”)

Exodus 20:6

And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

(Weird! I promise you, even though this verse is the one directly after the verse I received last week, it, like the other, WAS RANDOMLY GIVEN to me! Freaky weird. But, I guess that is true randomness… or perhaps divine providence…. Anyway…)

Who can we say really, truly loves God? Perhaps some may think of the Pope or a very pious nun, others of a peaceful and devout Imam or a deeply spiritual Rabbi or a wise and generous Lama – or an innocent, joyful child or that elderly person you know who has given so much of his or her life to taking care of other people and serving the local community of worship. The ones who love God, we can say, are the people of peace and charity, of forgiveness and goodwill, of compassion and joy, who are steadfast in their faith, unwavering in their hope, and self-giving in their love, people of deep prayer and spiritual belief. Of whom does the question make you think?

I don’t usually recommend thinking of other people when a question is asked or a teaching is given – usually, I try to apply the question or teaching to myself so that I won’t get caught up in pointing fingers. But, in this case, I believe that it is good if, when hearing the question “Who loves God?”, our minds instinctively go to other people whom we believe to be most worthy of a title such as “One Who Loves God”. Otherwise, we might be too full of pride. I do consider myself as one who loves God and would even gladly identify myself in this manner. But… I know that loving is not something that one merely feels or even chooses by assenting in a kind of intellectual way. Loving must be lived. We love, not only with our thoughts and words, but also with our actions, our souls – we love with the entirety of our beings. So, I ask myself, with my whole life, with my every living moment: do I love God?

In the Bible Burst that I wrote just previously to this one, I explored the question of who hates God. My ultimate answer, which I realize now is very startling and seemingly harsh, was that anyone who hates a human being hates God. I stand by that statement. Truly, because I believe that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God and loved by God, I believe that if I hate another person – or even hate myself – I am despising God, upon whose image and likeness I am directing my hatred. Yes, humans are capable of the most vile, willful cruelty and disgusting acts of evil – but no one, no human being is irredeemable to God so long as he or she has a functioning will. Any person, no matter how viciously minded, can choose at any moment to change. A mass murderer can want to do good and, in the course of exercising some small mercy, may come to see his murderous deeds as wrong and experience true remorse and repentance. This is the start of one who hated God journeying toward reconciliation with God and it is a gift that God gives to everyone.

We must want this journey of mercy for every mean hearted person if we are truly going to be people who love God. We must hope and pray for the conversion of all sinners – especially of the worst and certainly including ourselves. If we truly love God then we will want what God wants – and God wants every one of his beloved human beings to know mercy, to know love, to know faith and hope. And how can they know unless they are told, unless they are shown? And who will it be that shows them? Are we waiting for God to take care of it with lightning bolts or plagues or a visiting host of heavens angels? God wants us to love one another and sends us to the needy (those who suffer from the poverty of love and mercy and hope) and to the imprisoned (those who are captives to greed and vengeance and selfishness) to bring hope of salvation, which is the gift of God’s love. We, created in God’s image, are to minister to our fellow divine images, especially to those who may have lost the loving brilliance of their identities. It is a privilege, an honor, and a blessing to be able to show the Light of the World to those living in darkness – showing the radiance of the Light by reflecting it with our souls. For, Divine Love shines forth through us in our every act of true love – “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”[1]

So, again, I ask myself if I really, truly love God. Only God knows the truth of my heart. Only God can see with infinite clarity the brilliance of my soul – and know whether or not I have sullied it with hate.

 

Christina Chase

All Rights Reserved

 

 

[1] Romans 10:15

Them That Hate Me

Cycles of violence … Who hates God?

Exodus 20:5

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

Who hates God? The easy answer that comes to mind might be atheists. But, of course, a true atheist doesn’t believe in the existence of God – how can someone hate something that doesn’t exist? Satanists are another group of people that we could point to and say that they hate God. Certainly with their creed, their words and their rituals, they seek to align themselves with the mystical enemy of God and eschew all things upright and wholesome. But… I would wager that most Satanists in action, in the world and in their families, are no less destructive and unwholesome than some who profess to believe in God. Oh, there are certainly Satanists who choose evil deeds, who hate and curse and torture and kill. But, are there not God believing people who do the same, calling on a different name?

How many Muslims, how many Christians, how many peoples throughout history around the world have preached and practiced acts of violence and cruelty in the name of their gods? Enough to make a person think about wanting to be an atheist – indeed, some want-to-be influential people, like Bill Maher, for one example, blame all the wars that humans have fought on religion. However, in all truth and reason, we can clearly see that wars arise from ideologies – which often claim no god. Stalin’s communist regime was one of the most brutal in history and he did not systematically kill for the honor of any god, for he was an atheist. He was vicious and destructive for himself, for power and greed (maybe even for his own amusement) for the sake of his way of looking at things, his ideology. And is that not the true cause of every war? Is not the real reason humans are bent on cruelty and domination that they want to be? Wars are fought by individual soldiers in trenches and on front lines who may very well have loving reasons for being there – but wars are instigated and created by people who want what they want and will gladly have killed or destroyed anyone who they think gets in the way. Even smaller-scale acts of violence – the cold-blooded murder of a girlfriend, the rape of a stranger, the lethal shooting of a dozen kids in a school – are not caused by religion. Man’s cruelty to man has nothing to do with the love and worship of God.

The people who hate God are the people who hate other people. For every person is created in God’s image. If you hate anyone in the world – even if you hate the most horrible and vilest of persons – you hate God. We often think that it is right and good to hate evil doers. We laud all talk of destroying the enemies of freedom and justice. Although it is true that anyone who is an enemy of true freedom and true justice is choosing to go against the ways of God, if we choose to hate that hate-filled person, then we, too, are choosing to go against God’s ways. Christ said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” God does not close off divine mercy from anyone – and neither should we. For, if we are to live as we were created to live, we must strive to do as God does and struggle to walk in the ways of mercy and selflessness – of real love.

Yes, people do horrendous things and claim to do them for the love of God – but that’s not really love. Or, perhaps more accurately, that’s not really God. It’s very easy to think of God as meting out pain and vicious punishment on those who would seek to go against Him. The Bible has many, many verses that tell of God’s wrath and vengeance and the hurt He puts upon His enemies. In the verse from Exodus 20, about the Commandment against worshiping false idols God says, “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments.” What we often think of as God’s willfully wrathful punishment, however, is, I believe, simply the natural consequences of our own willfully wrathful choices. Do we not know that violence begets violence and those who live by the sword die by the sword? Do we not see the rational truth of this in the world, even in our everyday lives? It doesn’t mean that the One and Almighty God will smite anyone who seeks to worship through a religion other than the one and only one prescribed by Him. If it did, God might welcome arguments that escalate into violence about which religion is the true religion – but, God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” God gives us freewill and allows us to freely choose, pouring His love and mercy upon each and every one of us, relentlessly. That loving mercy can feel like eternal pain to those who never want to receive it, not even in the last moments of their lives; or it can feel like eternal sunshine and grace to those who long for the forgiveness and love of God.

If a child is taught to hate by his parents, he will usually become a hater. If his child, then, is taught to destroy the hated ones, then he will usually become destructive. The person in the family who first chose, in freewill, to hate a human being or human beings, who first saw cruel domination as a good, set up a cycle of hate, a cycle of violence, that is, as we know, very difficult to break. But, then, there are those people who willfully choose to have mercy. Though, sometimes, they are punished by the hating people, their acts of kindness and selflessness do not go unseen. Their true love, that choice to walk in divine ways, inspires others for generations upon generations upon generations… as are the saints of old, and new, ever inspiring, ever celebrated even after 2000, 5000 years. And their individual lives do not end with the death of their limited bodies, their self-centered thinking, as do the lives of those who hate God by hating human beings – the lives of those who love God by selflessly loving human beings are as eternally beautiful as the Beautiful One, Who Is Eternal Love.

 

Christina Chase

All Rights Reserved

 

Not Avenge

What do we want most from others for ourselves?  I think it’s mercy…

Leviticus 19:18

Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

I am human and I make mistakes.  A lot of them.  Not being God and, therefore, not being perfect, I am bound to have flaws, to get things wrong, and to do things that I wish I wouldn’t do.  Sometimes, as I am responding to my loved one, I will hear the words coming out of my mouth and wish them back just as they hit the air.  My words can be mean – petty, spiteful, downright cruel.  And in that moment, with my murderous speech hanging between the two of us, my heart drops down into the pit of my stomach and I hold my breath, begging silently for mercy.

It’s not often that the dagger slashes of my tongue are received with warmth and kindness – okay, not ever.  My loved one feels the pain, I hurt her, I hurt him, and the love they feel for me gets locked down inside of them and they harden with anger, putting up their defenses, whipping out weapons of their own.  Often, in the deadly speechlessness of their heavy, raging sigh, arrows shoot out their eyes and I feel myself cowering.  But I don’t cower.  I don’t apologize or try to console or make it up somehow.  I just want – need – to be forgiven.  More than anything I want to be spared the wrath of vengeance I have spurred.

Yet… What do I do when someone is mean to me?  What do I do when someone’s rash words cause me pain or, worse, when someone’s willful act of cruelty slices through me?  I’ll tell you what I do – I give it right back.  They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and I well believe it.  Though, to be fair and clear, I have inherited from my father a violence of temper unmatched by my mother’s in tamed and deep-seated force.  Please don’t misunderstand me – my family is not physically violent in any way.  I thank God there is no abuse of that kind in my home.  Even if, however, our angry responses don’t rise to the level of abuse, physical or verbal, we still find ways to seriously hurt each other.  The only thing that saves us from dysfunction and despair is the depth of our love – not only for each other, but also for ourselves.  We know how to be cruel, but we also know how to be merciful.

To “love thy neighbor as thyself” is to follow the golden rule by treating one’s fellow human beings the way that one wants to be treated oneself.  If we want to be forgiven by our loved ones when we say or do things to hurt them, then we should be ready to forgive them when they hurt us.  We react and respond too often out of anger, frustration and irritation.  We let our fears get the best of us and we irrationally take it out on the people who love us the most.  We are sorry when we do this, sometimes right away, sometimes several days later, and sometimes not until our loved ones show us the harm that we have done.  We bump against and batter each other, causing damage.  Efforts to minimize the friction and to repair the breaks and dents are good.  But, really, sometimes a person can be so hurt by another’s willful act of cruelty that only God can repair the damage.  My friend, who has suffered from every kind of abuse, once told me that there are some wounds that only God’s love can heal.

It’s God’s healing love that we truly want more than anything.  We want that divide between flawed humanity and perfect divinity to be bound up so that we may know wholeness.  To be who we are created to be, we cannot wallow in worldliness, we cannot inflict each other – and so inflict ourselves – with vengeance and destruction and violent dominance.  We must look past pain to the source of all joy.  Every tongue lashing is the scourging agony of a whipped back.  Every act of selfishness is the piercing of a crown of thorns.  Every cruel twist is a spike driven through the flesh.  God knows.

To stand one’s ground in the face of cruelty is not an act of unkindness.  To let the mean one know the pain that the meanness is causing is the right and kind thing to do.  But, what is one’s ground?  Is it vengeance?  Is it to give back as good as one gets?  Or is one’s ground love?  When my loved one meets my cruel words with silence and a look that tells me how wrong I was, I feel more penitence than I do when my unkindness is met with matching rage.  There’s something within me that will not allow me to learn or grow or improve under force and aggression.  That something is the divine image in which I am created.  That something is my soul.  I was created by God with the gift of free will.  I was created by God to reflect divinity into the world.  Not to reflect my own self, my offended pride, my insulted ego – but divinity, I am made to reflect God.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made, exquisitely beautiful in the eyes of the Infinite Eternal One and I will love myself as He loves me.  I will love my God-given ability to love, I will love my God-given capacity to forgive, I will love the gift of healing that God has given me.  And then, and only then, will I love, forgive, and heal.  I am not the Lord.  I shall not lord myself over anyone.  I shall receive, rather, the Lordship of God deep in my heart and through my whole being, becoming the person that the LORD created me to be.  Merciful.  Merciful is God, giving me perfect love when I do not deserve it.  And merciful am I created to be.

To forgive is to not forget that another person is capable of cruelty, but, rather, to remember that I am likewise capable.  To forgive is not to condone the hurtful behavior of another person, but, rather, to foster love and healing behavior within me – and so the world.  To forgive is to receive and share God.

Christina Chase