Fierce and Forgiving
Fierce and Forgiving: April 15, 2017
Early Spring...Easter theology...feeling especially vulnerable to the complexity of human relationships…all of this has had me thinking about what fragile, resilient, suffering, glorious creatures we humans are. We somehow manage to hold such beauty and such sorrow—enough of each to break my heart many times over—every single day.
There are a lot of fancy definitions and descriptions of resilience. Frankly, I’m just too tired right now to go there. Lately I’ve come to think of resilience as the willingness to take the next breath. And here already is grace, because breathing is usually an unconscious participation in life. We don’t usually choose to breathe, but we do get to choose how to breathe. That’s where our participation comes in.
Sometimes when I hear Jack and Emma toss each other breath-takingly cruel comments I honestly must remind myself to breathe. And often they are laughing and playing together minutes later. One minute screaming and sword-fighting, the next Emma runs to Jack for a hug because a blow was too hard.
Fierce and forgiving—that is what life has felt like this month.
Accompanying my dad from extreme pain through surgery toward recovery has been fierce and forgiving. How much pain is too much? When to push; when to stop? How much do we endure? The way forward was asking for specific daily and weekly goals. Asking the therapists to share their plan, because what’s obvious to someone who does this professionally is not obvious to the person experiencing it personally. We needed to clarify expectations on all sides.
How hard can we hit before it hurts too much? Will you give me a hug and apologize? Can we start over?
The bit of yard work I’ve attempted this month is to liberate some azaleas, a cedar tree, a cherry tree and an oak tree from ivy. I’m amazed at the ivy’s resiliency. I’ve hacked at it, pulling out huge roots that looked and felt like the thigh of some hairy, Middle-Earth creature. I’m amazed by the tree’s resiliency. How much more could it take? Tarzan could have swung from those vines.
I’ve watched the resiliency of my body as it fights (with the help of a steroid shot) the swollen patches of blisters caused by an unseen leaf of poison ivy. Now that is a frustratingly resilient plant.
I’ve watched the tiny whorls of Hosta leaves spiraling out of barren earth; and the frost-bitten Confederate Jasmine resume its climb.
I’ve watched Jack fall off his bike, kick it, get back on, and ride flawlessly. I’ve watched Emma concentrating on keeping the colors in the lines. I’ve watched our dog, Grady, give each of us another and another and another chance for love. Ready for it whenever we are.
That’s the resiliency I’m really going for. The intentional offering of love, over and over, even if you just hit me too hard. Not to be naïve, but neither becoming hard-hearted. Wise as Pilate, innocent as a Paschal lamb, taking in the grace of the next breath. Knowing that the grace of love also comes from the indwelling Spirit. The Ruach Yahweh—breath of God.
In my morning meditation, I am intentional about my breath.
I often come back to the Welcoming Prayer that I’ve described here before. I take a breath in, then breathe out “I let go the desire for safety and security.” Another breath. Exhale: “I let go the desire for esteem and affection.” Breathe in. Exhale: “I let go the desire for power and control.” Inhale. Exhale: “I let go the desire to change the situation.”
In this challenging month, I’ve grafted on another meditation, this one from James Finley. When I inhale I hear God saying to me, “I love you.” Then I surrender. In other, more resilient times, I can exhale “I love you” back to God, but for now, my love is my surrender.
“When you acknowledge the brokenness in the world, you believe there are good things in the midst of it, that’s when you have the opportunity to be a part of those good things. You have the opportunity to challenge the broken things in the world and become the solution.” That’s from an interview I read with Branden Harvey , who hosts a podcast called Sounds Good, offers a weekly Goodnewsletter, and has just finished a successful Kickstarter campaign for a physical, printed, Goodnewspaper. His mission is to tell stories of the good in the world. I think it’s a good mission.
My friend, Pam, buffered me with this good news. “It’s so difficult to balance caring for parents and young children at the same time. My realization now is that one thing that is does allow for is that your children get to see love and commitment play out in a whole new way—it does make a lasting imprint on their hearts and souls.” I really want this to be true.
My friend, Amy, sent me this piece of wisdom. I know it to be true.
In my church, the eighth-graders going through the confirmation process must formally present their statement of faith. In 2015, I was so impressed by one that I asked Georgiana if I could have a copy of hers. Here’s my favorite part.
People are like alveoli. Alveoli in our lungs fill up with air and then diffuse it into the rest of the body to keep you alive. Like alveoli, our bodies fill up, but not with air. With love. God fills us with love so that we can diffuse it out to the rest of the body of the world. And then, when we run out of love, like air filling our lungs, he fills us up again.
I breathe until I can’t anymore and then I let God breathe for me.
This is Resurrection.