Sunday, February 19, 2017

Cherish No Grudge

" The Lord said to Moses, 'Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God am holy.  You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart. Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen, do not incur sin because of him. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.' " -[ Leviticus 19: 1-2, 17-18].

My family growing up seemed to judge others and bear grudges.

If someone was different than us-- perhaps being a person of color, an immigrant or a laborer-- my family would disparage them. Then, they would reject them, barely speaking to them. They would gossip behind that person's back about their clothes, their lack of money, their culture, their place in the community.

I would hear at the dinner table that this family or that made no money; they paid so little in taxes; yet, hey expected the successful citizens to pay for what they lacked. THIS is NOT loving one's neighbor as oneself.

My family also bore grudges. If a lady snubbed my mother or said something unkind, my mother would say, "I cannot be around her anymore. She has shown me who she is."  Perhaps my mother would shun this lady. Or, she would gossip about the lady behind her back, spreading the taint of rumors. . . when perhaps the whole thing had been just a silly misunderstanding.

I had a great challenge as a child, learning how to love whilst not bearing grudges, rejecting others, or gossiping and slandering.

This was not merely because of the poor example of my family. It was even more so, because of the cruelties showered on me as a child. . . . cruelties that measured up as bona fide abuse.

I came around my sibling and parents only when I absolutely had to, such as for evening dinners, or car trips. Otherwise, I spent my time largely alone. I was not refusing to forgive, and I was not hating them. I was keeping myself safe, out of the fray.

Funny thing about Love -- Love doesn't ever require you to take abuse over and over from someone, even if that someone is a life-long family member.

I stayed safe as best I could as a girl. I was in school most of the day. Otherwise, I would hole up in my room. Hide in the bushes. Sit up on the roof and read a book. Go find a shady spot under a pine tree high up on a hill. Spend hours at friends' houses.

Then, I left home at age 18 to go away to school. After that, I was rarely home. During summers, I would sleep at home, but be at work all day.

Ultimately, I got married and moved away.

One early spring day, I received a phone call that my father had arisen for the day, had a cup of coffee, then died instantly from a massive heart attack.

This forced me to confront what Love REALLY meant.

I had never born a grudge against my parents. They had given me life. They were deeply flawed and had done the best they could as parents. Yet, still, their "best" meant that their abuse had driven a bulldozer through my soul.

I saw my mother as a proud but crippled eagle. She was majestic but severely damaged. She did not know how to love. She could tear my heart out with her mighty claws, even as she desperately tried to draw me closer.

My dad, largely emotionally abandoned by his own parents, was so emotionally needy that he crossed boundaries that should never be crossed by a parent.

I knew as soon as my dad died, that I would have to take my mother back and take care of her to her last day. Her health was worse than I had imagined.

As much as I hated what she had done to me, and as much as I struggle daily with the damage -- I could not bear a grudge over how she had ruined me. I could not hate her for abandoning and rejecting me as a mother, then turn around and abandon and reject her myself, when she was fragile and terminally ill.

Even if the wounded animal bites you, how can you kick the animal down the road -- and still call yourself human?

When I took care of her for her last year, I reminded myself that I did not have to like the damage that she had caused. I could even find it incredibly difficult to care for her.

I did not have to accept further abuse from her, verbal, emotional, or in any way. If she turned sour again, I could drive her home from my place and back to the assisted living community where she lived,and where she was receiving compassionate care.

I could also welcome the help of the community to make my job of loving her more manageable.

Ultimately, I could pray to God for the Grace to be the face of unconditional Love to her, until her last day on Earth.

[Related Posting: "Love Thy Neighbor", 10/23/11.]

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Mysterious Wisdom

" Brothers and sisters: We speak a wisdom to those who are mature, not a wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age who are passing away. Rather, we speak God's wisdom, mysterious, hidden, which God predetermined before the ages for our glory, and which none of the rulers of this age knew; for, if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
But as it is written: What eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love Him, this God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God." --[1 Corinthians 2: 6-10].

We believe we are so advanced, so very wise today. We no longer read books crafted of wood pulp, by the dim luminescence of candlelight. We read by the dim blue light of an electronic tablet.

We no longer shoot to kill with a single bullet. We can murder many more human beings with an automatic weapon. Or a nuclear bomb. Our bombs don't just drop out of a plane; how very
"World War I" of us to constrict ourselves to that. No, our guided- missiles fly through the air by themselves. Our soldiers do not even have to be physically present on a battlefield, since they can kill with a remote control drone.

We are not even sure of what the Truth is any longer. Now that we have the Internet, and all ordinary citizens are now their own Truth-crafters, (who get paid by the click),  "the Truth" is whatever sells.

We think we are so very wise, with our cable TV shows featuring "pundits" and "experts". But, as book reviewer Daniel Johnson points out, [on "Public Intellectuals in the Global Arena", by Michael C. Desch], "the members of this self-appointed club seem to have learned nothing from the failure to predict the collapse of communism or make sense of its aftermath. They didn't 't see 9/11 coming, nor the 2008 financial crash, nor the Arab Spring. In the past two years they missed the emergence of Islamic State, Russia's annexation of Crimea, and, most recently, Brexit and the victory of Donald Trump." -[NYT 12/21/16].

This kind of "wisdom of punditry" is exactly what St. Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians -- "a wisdom of this age, of rulers of this age who are passing away."  Our modern wise men are so very often completely wrong, and ultimately fail us even in their passing.

In 1963, when Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote "Strength to Love, he spoke of how humankind worships color television, the airplane, electric lights and rocket ships. I would say, today, that we worship technology still; only the Things which we worship have changed-- the Internet, the smart phone, apps, and social media.

King said, "What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world of externals -- airplanes, electric lights, automobiles and color television -- and lose the internal-- the soul?"

And again, " Some gradually came to feel that God was an unnecessary item on the agenda of life. . .
We are tempted to feel that man is the true master of the physical universe." --[Strength to Love.]

Ultimately, "We may feel that we do not need God, but on the day when the storms of disappointment rage, the winds of disaster blow. . . if we do not have a deep and patient faith, our emotional lives will be wiped to shreds. There is so  much frustration in the world, because we have relied on gods, rather than God."

You see, I grew up in a childhood home where we "genuflected before the god of Science. . . the god of Pleasure. . . and before the god of Money." -[MLK]. In my childhood home, there was no God; and religion was called, "the opiate of the masses." These material gods brought only rivalry, bitterness, jealousy, anxiety, trauma, despair and depression. And when my family's mere human efforts failed, there was No One Else to lean on.

And so, what I seek is "God's wisdom, mysterious, hidden, and which none of the rulers of this age knew." Because no one can be wiser than God.

To build one's foundation on those things built by humankind-- by our faulty, frail, feeble human selves-- is to place one's Faith in all that is temporary and foolish.

What I seek instead is the Spirit, "for what God has prepared for those who love Him, this God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For, the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God."

[Related Posting: "Prayer For Wisdom", 7/23/11; "Clinging to Human Rules", 9/4/12].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Rescuing Jesus

"Thus says the Lord:
Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall be healed; your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord shall answer, you shall cry for help, and He will say: 'Here I am!' If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday." -[ Isaiah 58: 7-10].

I have many wounds. They arise from the many traumas of my childhood. My near-drowning in a neighbor's pool, when I was about four. The scorched and ashy walls, and the acrid stench, after the fire in my grandmother's house. The bullying taunts from the kids in my old neighborhood. The bruises from a sibling who would hit me. The verbal abuse from my sibling and mother; those cruel words did not bounce off me, like water trickling down harmlessly.  No-- These words, as Maya Angelou used to say, were "Things".

Maya Angelou once said, "Some day we'll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are "Things". They get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally in to you."

Then, there was my father's anger, expressed as abuse; his face red and fiery, no more than an inch from my own; his lips twisted, his words bitter.

I carried the wounds deep inside me for more decades than I can count. I pushed the pain deep down. I left home at age 18, and tried to pretend that I was simply turning the page in a book, to a new and glorious chapter. I could move on unscathed, I vowed. I could find a new family. . .

But decades later, the pain from the wounds flared up, like some kind of untamable dragon. I could no more control that Pain Dragon, than you could a T-Rex which might come roaring whole out of a fossil-- a raging, complete beast ravaging my world.

Where to put the pain? How to escape it? The pain and fear were even in my nightmares. There was no escape, not sleeping, not awakening.

Yes, I could have anesthetized myself with drink or drugs. But that would have made me confused, weaker, less able to battle the Beast. I was not going to go down without a fight.

I could have taken my anger out on others. But, I visualize Anger as a heavy military vehicle, loaded with ammunition and weapons, but bogged down in mud and swamp. It may look intimidating, its tires squealing, loud, spouting up dirty spray and steam. But the Anger Truck goes nowhere. It sinks, and becomes stuck, in its own mire.

I asked the Pastoral Minister at my church? -- 'Where do I put the pain?'  She told me, 'Put your pain at the foot of the cross, with the Christ crucified. He knows and understands your pain.'

I thought that was beautiful. But the more I imagined Jesus on the cross, the more pained I became. You see, there are deep wounds everywhere in our world, unjust, vicious, cruel. There are even unimaginable wounds ravaging God's Only Son. Sometimes, I cannot bear to look.

And so, I went back to what I did as a child. I refused to accept the abuse. I loved in turn, fiercely.

Traditional psychology teaches that the wounded must take care of themselves, tenderly, endlessly. And yes, we must NOT continue to abuse OURSELVES, long after the abusers are gone -- putting ourselves down, eating poorly, beating ourselves up emotionally, harming ourselves physically. We are created in the image of God, who IS Love. We need the dignity of Love, to survive. Our bodies and souls ARE the Temples of God.

Scripture, however, teaches us that our wounds will heal, not so much through Self-Love, but through Love for others.

"Share our bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them. . . Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall be quickly healed."

I call this more than social Justice. I call this Spiritual Warfare. Yes, when I feed and clothe the homeless and the oppressed, I am rescuing the marginalized. But at the same time, in a way, I am the Wounded who is endlessly rescuing myself, even as I rescue others.

But, in my Spiritual Warfare, I am also loving Jesus Himself. Mother Teresa said, "I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed Him.  This is sick Jesus. . . I must wash Him and tend to Him. I serve because I love Jesus."

To live well, after all -- we MUST do good.

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2017. All Rights Reserved.