Saturday, May 19, 2012

Once Forgiven, Not Always Forgiven

I used to think that forgiveness was linear. You work at forgiving someone, and either through a confrontation or just the passing of time, you reach forgiveness and move on. But it doesn’t work like that. That’s the same thinking as “once saved, always saved” or believing that completing rehab means a person will never touch drugs again.

There was a person who hurt me a few years ago. It took me months to work through the pain. Sometimes, the healing process revealed that I had been hurt much deeper than I initially thought, and the hatred and bitterness would explode again. Just a few months ago, I reached forgiveness. I was able to let go my anger, and the hurt went to. I was able to wish him the best and see him as him, rather than as that-expletive-who-did-this-and-that-to-me.

But the bitterness resurfaced. In recent conversations that mentioned that part of my life, I found myself saying things about him that could only come from a bitter place. Once I realized this, I thought, “I thought I had forgiven him. I guess not.” But the truth is I had. I had reached that point of forgiveness. I had felt freed of the hurt and anger. I had been able to see the person, not the person-who-hurt-me. I did forgive him, and now I have to forgive him again, not because he transgressed again, but because my mercy is weak.

Every encounter with or about him is a choice for me to continue to forgive or not. Forgiveness is not a threshold; it is a state of being. Just like love, or hate for that matter. Some days, the forgiveness will come easily. Some days, I’ll not even have to remember to forgive; I’ll be beyond that. But some days, the hurt will rise up, and part of me will want revenge or pity or anger. Those days won’t mean that my days of forgiveness weren’t genuine. It just means I have days that I still need to work on.

There are days when I feel close to God. There are days I don’t. There are days where I get distracted and don’t think much about God at all. (I would guess that my days of forgiveness and days of feeling close to God probably align.) Forgiveness, like salvation, isn’t linear or consistent. It’s messy and unpredictable and difficult. But it’s worth the effort.

Friday, May 18, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 31)

1. Today is my last day of work! I’m happy to be just a student again, though I will miss the paychecks and built-in study time.

2. I’ve been really bad about writing lately, and it’s only going to get worse. This will be my last Quick Takes for a couple of weeks because of vacation and moving. Hopefully, I can get back into the swing of things in mid-June.

3. I still don't have a handle on the new Blogger. Anything revised to make something easier usually means it is going to take me twice as long as before.

4. I’m getting excited about moving in a few weeks, even though I have about three times as much furniture as one can fit in a studio apartment. Part of my motivation to get a good job is to afford a place big enough that most of my belongings don’t have to stay in my parents’ basement.

5. I’m also getting excited for my trip to Scotland. I usually go into trips with low expectations so I can’t be disappointed, however, I can’t help but be excited about this one for some reason. I think something in my Scots-Irish blood was triggered during my brief stay there before that made me actually love the place.

6. I’m trying to decide what books to take for the plane rides. I never read too much when I travel, but I do want some good fluff books on hand.

7. We had to hook up new cable boxes this week, and for the first time, we get BBC America. Best. Surprise. Of. The. Week.

Check out others' Quick Takes here!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Chasing Death

It’s said that people fear death almost as much as they fear public speaking. It’s true, according to the studies, but it’s also a joke. We’re a country of extroverts; public speaking shouldn’t be a problem. And besides, as living creatures, death is obviously the biggest fear we should have. Punch line: what silly, illogical humans.

Now, I’m an introvert, but I’ve never understood the fear of public speaking. I don’t like it, and I’ll avoid it if I can. But when I can’t, I just get up and speak. I don’t even get nervous if I’ve had the time to prepare what I’m going to say. (Maybe this is because I’m not a good conversationalist, and public speaking is usually a one-way street.) In any case, I don’t want to speak in front of a group of people, but I’ll do it.

And that’s sort of how I approach death as well. I don’t want to die, but given time to prepare for it, I don’t think it would even make me nervous. My fears around death are more focused on avoiding pain and embarrassment during the dying process, not the death itself. But I don't want to talk about people's fear of dying today; I want to talk about people's love of death.

The relationships humans have with death are surely signs of original sin. Other animals act on instinct to avoid death; self-preservation (or preservation of the species) dominates actions. We think we are like that; we go to great lengths to hang on to youth, security, health, thinking we are instinctively avoiding death.

But we love death. We invite death in. Our actions are suicidal ones. We eat things of no nutritional value. We fill our lungs with smoke and alter our bodies with drugs. We drink in excess. We ride rollercoasters and jump from planes to induce rushes of adrenaline. We do things that “feel good” knowing that they aren’t good for us. This extends to spiritual actions as well. We gossip, we cheat, we lust, we covet, all while knowing these things leave us spiritually dead. Doing the right thing becomes counter-intuitive. Sin is the default; death is the familiar.

I have been in end-of-year mode for the past couple of weeks, sort of a default mode where I don’t make many decisions and just get tasks done. I felt empty, neither happy nor unhappy. Nothing was specifically wrong, but I felt spiritually dry. I knew I needed to get myself out of this funk, but I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t crack open my Bible, I wouldn’t pick up my rosary, I wouldn’t spend one extra minute on my routine nightly prayers. Part of me was telling another part that nothing was wrong, and I chose to believe that. I could see solutions all around me, but I wouldn’t reach out. I convinced myself that little things like a prayer or a Bible verse can't make much difference. I chose death instead, even seeing it for what it was, even knowing I was wrong.

One night last week I actually finished everything up in time to go to bed early. But I had been pumping my body full of caffeine, so I wasn’t going to sleep any time soon.  I figured “what the hell” and picked up my rosary for the first time since Holy Week. It started off as nothing more than trying to make a good use of time, but it turned into pretty good prayer. By the time I finished, I felt better. I hadn’t even realized how bad I had felt before until I felt so much better after. And I wondered why I harm myself in such a way, denying the good that is within reach, choosing deadly actions instead. What makes it so hard? Why do I forget how wonderful the good is? Silly human.

Friday, May 4, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 30)

1. Happy Star Wars Day! May the fourth be with you.

2. Sorry I haven’t written much lately. I’ve been distracted by finals week.

3. Ok, I’ve also been pretty distracted by Star Trek on Netflix instant streaming.

4. Star Wars and Star Trek in one post? If I can fit in a Doctor Who reference, I'll have a nerd trifecta.

5. What’s with the font on the new Blogger? I can barely stand to look at that Comic Sans cousin every time I log on. It's taking me awhile to adjust to the new layout.

6. I’m done with school for about two months! And since I won't be working and just taking two classes this summer, I'm looking forward to all the free time.

7. I’m also looking forward to this weekend alone at home, cleaning, continuing my Star Trek marathon, and beginning to pack for Scotland.

Check out others' Quick Takes here!