Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Catharsis

I have had a really blessed day today visiting with friends. The pastors' and seminary students' retreat is today and tomorrow so that left several of us without husbands this afternoon. I had lunch with one friend and then drove about 200 yards to have a chat with another friend. Both gatherings were really refreshing, and yet always that tiny bit nerve wracking that is the experience of two moms trying to have a real conversation with 5 or 10 (yes, 10!) children running to and fro. So many good thoughts were started, but not necessarily completed. And I know that is what journals are for, but maybe blogs are a little bit too? It's been a while since I pondered the deeper issues with you all...

Well, some of you will laugh because I keep telling this story. But it was, as Oprah or somebody says, "an aha! moment." I have those every now and then. So, I was at the Y and I signed up for my machine and went to stretch. I signed up for 4:45 for 1 hour. I come over at 4:48 and someone is on my machine! There is a row of five with no one on them and she is on mine! So I look at the sign up sheet, and she has signed up over my name. Weird. And I am wondering why on earth she would do that when all the other machines are empty. Even weirder, she is signed up for 5:15, so she is on my machine, which is already claimed for the 5:15-5:45 slot that she signed up for, and she is on it 30 minutes early. So I am annoyed, actually pretty majorly annoyed. Because I can't stand rudeness. On the other hand, there are five other machines so it is pretty easy to just move on. Which is what I did, except that I found myself running and just fuming over how rude this girl was. And honestly, it was not an unfamiliar experience.

All too often I find myself driving down the road or rinsing out my hair or stirring a pot on the stove while having a very heated argument with some sort of wrongdoer in my head. But it actually grabbed me this time, perhaps because it was a total stranger and there truly was no harm done, and perhaps because the Holy Spirit was having his say, but it occurred to me that I had a major grudge against a complete stranger. And I began to think how it was kind of like the grudge I have against the girls who made such a big deal out of us needing the washer and dryer we loaned them back, and kind of like the grudge I have against a girl at church who made fun of me in front of a lot of people when I was brand new and still really shy, and kind of like the grudge I have against my old campus minister, and on and on. Yeah, that bad. I mean, there were a lot of grudges that instantly came to mind. And most of them are things that I have tried to rationalize, not to rationalize my grudge, but to reason myself out of the grudge. Like, "oh, she was only teasing," or "it was just a misunderstanding," or " he probably feels bad about it now that he is out of the situation." But somehow, those things I have been telling myself have not really helped me. Because here I am, years later in most cases, still really hurt and pretty angry too. And in most situations, I really was wronged. And I really did pursue reconciliation that didn't go over well. But nonetheless, the only thing having a grudge is doing, is hurting me.

Girl on the elliptical machine has no idea I'm mad, or at least doesn't care, so get over it, right? And these are the things I tell myself, but they don't help. So these people are going along their merry way, and I am being eaten up with anger toward them. Because the burning question for me often goes a little something like, "How do you forgive people when they aren't sorry?" I mean, often times they flat out tell you they aren't sorry and that they will not apologize. As someone who apologizes profusely for everything from forgetting someone's birthday to saying something in an unkind tone of voice to chewing someone out (because yeah, I do that sometimes too), I don't get that. But people tell me I'm an honest gal, and maybe part of that is being able to say I screwed up pretty easily. Maybe it's not so easy for some people.

One of our Scripture readings today in church was the passage in James chapter 2 that talks about how if we are guilty of one part of the law, we are a transgressor of the law. So basically, it doesn't matter if you don't do this one bad thing over here, because you did do this other thing, so you're a lawbreaker. Maybe you didn't break the same law as that guy over there, but you're still a lawbreaker. And that kind of grabbed me too. Especially verse 13, "For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment." Because the idea that maybe I didn't steal someone's elliptical machine (ooooh! big deal!) or make fun of a new girl in front of a bunch of people (or maybe I did once and I forgot about it?), but I did chew my son out when he didn't listen to what I told him to do and I did have a really bad attitude about a lot of things too numerous to recount for you, and all of that without mentioning the very obvious anger I have had toward a whole lot of people.

Mercy. It's not something I would say I don't ever extend. In fact, I am in the daily practice of trying to be merciful and loving to my children, or being "mercy ministry" minded to people in need. Trying, not always succeeding :) And mercy is just part of being polite, part of being kind. Micah 6:10, "He has shown thee, oh man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" Check, check, check. Right? (I'm kidding there of course!) But if you are really merciful, you will extend it to the people who don't want it, who don't ask for it, who don't think they need it. After all, that's what Christ did for us. And that is a really really tall order for me.

I am not sure if anyone can relate. I wanted to give one little example just to over-explain like I like to do. Imagine you're in your car with all your children, and you're stopped at a stop sign, and someone just plows into the back of you. The kids are crying, but everyone is okay, you get out of the car and it's this guy whose face is beet red and he is just fighting mad, yelling and screaming at you because he says you should have gone through the stop sign and he wouldn't have hit you. What a freak! (This has actually happened to me when I was pregnant with August.) Now imagine that instead of the crazy man, it's some sweet grandmotherly lady and she says how sorry she is and offers to let you use her cell phone to call the police and asks very sincerely about your children and clearly just feels terrible. For me, it is a piece of cake to forgive the old lady. Everyone makes mistakes, bless her heart. And I may never get over the audacity of that man!

Except I will. Because that is the thing I am working on lately. A very humbling thing actually, daily praying for grace to forgive people for offenses big and small that they have probably (and I should have) long since forgotten. And I think the most humbling thing about it is that amongst all the grudges, a rather embarrassing one has been unearthed, a grudge against God. Which, as I'm sure you know, is ridiculous. Because God can't be wrong. So clearly, being angry with him, as if he has wronged me in some way, is nonsense. And yet, there it is. Because if he's in charge, and he is good, then why? Why do we have friends who have been unemployed for months? Why did he spare Amelia's life only to let her suffer such irreversible brain damage? Why did he allow her to get sick in the first place? Or why place a baby in a good and loving home only to have her taken away from those who have loved her so well? And why does he allow his children to grow up in homes where they are abused and unloved? Why does my family continually find ourselves in a position where we have no money and time is running out? Seriously, for me, spoiled brat Abby Hawkins, it is tough! And the answer to all of these questions, at least for us, is because His ways are higher than our ways. And that makes me mad. Because sometimes his ways just seem mean. And I kind of wonder if it made Joseph mad when he was stuck in jail for a crime he didn't commit in a foreign land after being sold into slavery by his brothers. Or if it made Job mad when his entire family and everything he owned was taken from him. So what if it was restored; it's not like his family members were suddenly not dead anymore! Does anyone else ever have this attitude? I can't decide where, if anywhere, it is okay and human and part of growing, or if it completely reprehensible to even think such things. Which also makes me mad, because who wouldn't think this way? How could you help it? Who are the stoics who look at what happened to Amelia and don't get angry? But on the other hand, like I said, the anger gets me nowhere. There has to be peace. And that's what I am praying for now.

So, kind of a lot here. And try not to be alarmed if this is the sort of thing that alarms you. I am fine. I am just working through the tragedies and injustices of the world. And actually feeling pretty good about my own personal "tragedies" in light of the ones in the lives of the people around me. (But man, it sure would be nice to not be homeless next month.) Y'all pray for Amelia. The family moved back home to Nebraska this past week to be nearer to family and to begin RUF campus ministry at University of Nebraska. I am very excited for them and especially for the students in their ministry, but I am fairly certain there were tears in their eyes when I asked them about Amelia's future last week. I find myself doing a little bargaining with God every now and then, thinking if he could just miraculously restore her, I could be absolutely certain of his goodness. But that is not how it works, is it? Well, he may work miracles for her yet. And for all of us! He has done so many things this far. I really do know that. Shame on me for thinking it isn't enough.


Jessie said...

Thanks Abby, really great thoughts. I am glad to hear them and convicted, too.

Wrights said...

Great things to think through. I can relate to a lot of what you are learning. Thanks for sharing your heart. We pray for you all often.

e.c. said...

Mercy...yes, that is something I think the Lord has been working on with me the past few years. And it definitely comes easier from a distance too. I used to be pretty critical of people/situations in general, and now it is so much easier for me to see people stumbling and dealing with sin and be empathetic/have my heart break for them. It is not so easy when you are the one that person is sinning against, though....still need work in that area...

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