Saturday, July 17, 2004

taking out the garbage

neritia, janet, and lilly have all got me thinking about forgiveness.

i think this is one of the huge areas where the church falls down. most of the teaching that i've heard on this, or even read for that matter is watered down and weak. shame based and full of should's. rarely about the why's and the tools that we are given in dealing with conflict, anger, health and healing.

lilly talked about ogres and onions. that is one of my favorite parts of shrek, the conversation about layers and parfaits and onions makes me smile even now as i think of it. ogres have layers, and those layers are like onions.

i have likened my recovery to an onion. god brings me to a place where i am facing a huge part of myself, my sin or stuff that has been done to me. i work through the pain, feel the emotions and gain perspective and learning from it. i think 'oh good, now that's over, whew. glad i'm finished...' and about a week later, in my face is another layer of the onion - just as big, or sometimes bigger than the last layer. that is the paradox. we keep thinking that the onion is going to get smaller with each layer, but in my experience it doesn't.

please don't get discouraged by that - it only means that we have the experience, strength and hope from that last layer that allows us to face the next one. and each layer usually involves it's own emotions and levels of forgiveness.

i remember reading that 70x7 time in the gospels as a kid and thinking jesus was a bit daft. i mean that in the most respectful way, but really, smack me in the face once and apologize, i'll probably forgive you, but turn right around and do it to me again (let alone 70 more times) come on jesus? really?

what i have come to find out in recovery is that's probably not the full explanation of the message that jesus was trying convey.

each layer of that onion that i am dealing with brings back old junk that i have to deal with. each time i think 'oh, not again...' it's like that scab gets picked off sometimes and those emotions rise up and i need to deal with the event, the person or at least the emotions again. forgiveness is a choice. don't let anyone ever tell you it will be this dimly lit, soft music playing in the background scene where you both walk off into the sunset. it's gritty, real and the stuff that life is made of.

after each recovery session we join hands and say the lord's prayer. 'as we forgive those who trespass against us' sticks in my throat each time. yuck. only as much as i forgave them?? yep. why?

i think it goes back to that layer thing. i am only able to receive as much as i am able to give away. eternal principles are at work here. if i have my hands full of the junk other people have given me, done to me, or abused me with then i have no room to receive the forgiveness i am asking for. my hands are full.

i try to explain it to the youth i teach with this illustration. when someone hurts, injures or wounds you it's like they hand you a bag a garbage and say 'here, hold this'. and we do. we walk around with it, and the others we have been given and carry them through life. the whole time we are thinking 'this stinks, i hate this. look at all this crap i have to carry.' all the time getting more weighed down, tired and resentful.

jesus says 'set the bags down, step away from the garbage, choose to walk around free and clear'. (my paraphrase). and each time that layer strips away and i stand facing the next one i am tempted to pick that bag up again. muttering to myself 'i'll get you now, see this garbage, this stinks. i'll get you now...' when really all that has happened is that i've returned like a dog to my vomit and am wallowing in it.

it is only with empty hands that we are able to receive. 'as we forgive those who trespass against us.'

i think that there has been a lot of error in teaching too about the way forgiveness is to take place. god is the only one who forgets. he's the only one capable of the forgetting. that horrible line 'forgive and forget' isn't in the bible - yet i heard that heresy my whole life.

what forgiveness really means is giving up the rights to punish and seek retribution. letting go. setting down the bag. i'll never forget that i was raped. never. but it doesn't bring back poison every time i remember it. really. i know that may sound trite or simple. it's not. it's never easy, but it does get easier.

i suspect that 70x7 really means is that i personally am re-experiencing the
emotions and trauma again. that those feelings are welling up within me again, and i need to deal with them each time - even 140 times they could haunt me. not that someone has smacked me in the face 70 times and i am supposed to keep forgiving them. those layers of pain, trauma and emotion would kill us is we had to 'eat the onion whole'. that's why 'next' is so important in my recovery.

that's why the founders of AA were god inspired (IMHO), 12 steps, broken down into bite size pieces. not one whole big unswallowable chunk rammed down our throats. just 'next'. it's linking all of those tiny 'nexts' together that brings health and healing, in tiny little baby steps.

what garbage do i need to take out today lord?

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