Last week, on the morning of Stephen's final soccer game, the heat index was 109 degrees. The air hung heavy, and the haze made it so that I kept continually wiping my glasses, but my vision never cleared. Everything about the morning was oppressive. The weather matched my mood; life felt heavy and hot and enveloping. It was difficult to see more than a few inches in front of me. The familiar landscape was uncertain and light was diffuse — glaring but not illuminating. Please read the rest here.
...And then I wonder about me. When memory fades, who will I be at the core? What will remain to stand as a testimony to what mattered in my life? Living in the Sandwich Generation is the perfect introduction to memento mori, the practice of reflecting on death in order to tweak the details of life. Memento mori begs us to consider the transience and the vanity of life on earth in light of everyone’s eventual death. It’s not a morbid fascination with darkness. Instead, it’s an invitation to walk in the light that illuminates what really matters while there is still time to tweak the details of life. Please read the rest here.
I wonder: in order to forgive, do we have to forget? In order to respect the dignity of a person who has hurt us, do we have to let him or her back into the space where they harmed us in the first place?
Certainly, we are called to bear wrongs with patience and with grace; then, when it is appropriate, we admonish the sinner with kind gentleness. It is an act of mercy to share the faith, to remind another person of virtue and to pray for them and with them for growth — both in virtue itself and in the joy that virtue will yield in their lives. There is a patient persistence in prayer that is our call when someone we love is sinning. We gently poke slow-growing seeds into the soil and then we wait with patient faith for them to bear fruit.
But what if the wrong we bear patiently and the sin we call out is actually an offense against us personally? What if we’ve been hurt by someone else’s actions? We are called to forgive. And we’re called to do so over and over again. Someone recently pointed out to me that we have the occasion to forgive a sin 70 times seven (Mt 18:22) more often than we might recognize. We can forgive a sin the first time, truly releasing its grip in our souls, but then we have to forgive it every time it comes to mind, for as long as we continue to remember.
Often, it’s really in our best interest to remember. Forgiving isn’t the same as forgetting. Instead, someone else’s sins can hold valuable lessons for us — lessons in navigating the tricky waters of complicated relationships, lessons in boundaries, lessons in learning to replace foolishness with wisdom.
Remembering isn’t for revenge. The only one who will repay a wrong is God (Rom 12:19). It’s important to relinquish completely the desire to hurt someone in retaliation for hurts suffered at their hands. Whenever someone else causes us to suffer by their sins, it can be helpful and spiritually fruitful to call to mind that our suffering pales in comparison to what they will face if they don’t repent and amend their ways. Even in the hurt, we can soften our hearts for compassion.
But compassion does not ask us to let ourselves be victims again. Compassion doesn’t ask us to be silent and let pass the opportunities to share our pain, both for our healing and as a cautionary tale to others. Compassion does not require us to throw open wide the doors of our homes and hearts to someone who might harm us or our families. On the contrary, we have a responsibility to protect ourselves from harm. Certainly, no one would object to refusing to put oneself in physical harm. It is equally right and just to protect oneself from emotional harm. It is entirely possible to forgive someone while at the same time constructing a strong and sturdy boundary against further pain.
That boundary is a mercy to the one who inflicted the pain, too. If we allow ourselves to be victims over and over again, then the people who harm us associate no logical consequence for the damage they have done. Every parent knows that correction requires some consequence in order to be effective, even if it’s the sting of disapproval. So, forgiveness that also results in the consequence of a boundary is not incomplete forgiveness. Protecting oneself from further harm is good self-care. It’s a good idea to be kind and gentle to ourselves when we’ve been hurt. When we forgive, our hearts are transformed. Protecting that healing heart is both prudent and kind.
“It’s the season of mothers!” the bright pink ad declared. I smiled. Well, maybe I smirked. In my mind, I was editing. Perhaps it is a season to celebrate mothers, I thought, but there is no such thing as a season of mothers. Motherhood is a vocation — a holy calling — and it is the call of a lifetime, not limited to society’s little box. It’s not an item for a list of life goals. It’s not just another endeavor to pursue. It’s the beckoning of the Holy Spirit to a path of sanctity. It’s an invitation to create a haven for a family where souls are nurtured and God is known. With motherhood, comes the call to create home. I think that Mother’s Day might herald the beginning of the “season of home” for women.
It’s mid-August and the back corner of Target smells like Office Depot. The aroma of notebook paper mingles with that of waxy crayons, with just a hint of ink smell making things interesting. But mostly, it’s the paper I smell. Brightly colored lunchboxes are stacked too high, teetering toward the rainbow of vinyl binders. It’s back-to-school shopping time.
Here in the back corner, children jostle and beg, hoping to capture the goodies they are sure will make the year a happy one. Wonder Woman lunchbox? Sure, if that’s what it takes to get you to eat a packed lunch. Several aisles over, in the bedding department, there is a different milieu altogether. Mothers bite their lower lips while checking through the “dorm essentials” list and avoiding the eyes of their daughters lest they both cry.
It’s August and there are so many new beginnings slated for later this month. In our family, where grown children are no longer bound to school calendars and younger children have been homeschooling year-round, August is still (and always has been) that start of something new.
My eldest child has moved his young family from the West Coast to the East, is about to buy his first house, and just learned he and his wife are expecting twins. My second child is off to the big city to begin a brand-new grown-up adventure. The next one in line just called to let me know he no longer needs to be on our cell phone plan. He’s got a new job, a new apartment and a new phone. It’s August. Time for all things new.
It’s August and we’re all a little terrified if we’re honest. I meet the eyes of my friend who is sending her firstborn to college and fear pools in the depth of her usually sparking blue eyes. I take a friend’s baby on my hip while she tells me about her 5-year-old’s kindergarten teacher. Her hand shakes just a little as she pushes her bangs out of her eyes. How can we possibly send them off into the unknown? For their part, the ones who are leaving ask, “Can I do this? Can I really, really do this? Or will I mess it up? Disappoint? Fail?” New beginnings are never easy. Fear smells as strongly as a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.
Faith speaks words of truth to fear. Wherever you’re going this August, God goes with you. Tell your fear there is no where He can’t and won’t reach. When we’re sure we cannot do the task that lies before us, when we’re afraid our hearts will break or we will fail or we will disappoint, we have to cling to the truth. God knows we’re not enough and He will fill in the gaps. When we step out in faith, we do it knowing that we are not enough. That’s where the faith comes in. If we were everything we needed and wanted, what use would we have for God?
Fear is insidious, paralyzing us if we let it. It doesn’t prevent bad things from happening. It doesn’t make anything more secure. All fear really does is keep us from living the life that God intends for us. That life — the one for which we were created — requires that we do the thing we couldn’t possibly do if not for knowing that Jesus is there, ready and waiting to give us grace and strength sufficient for both the good moments and the ones that feel like utter failures.
If everything always stayed as fresh and pretty as a brand-new notebook, where’s the living? The notebook has value when we take up the pen and bravely write our hearts in its pages. It has worth when the corners begin to separate and the cover gets scuffed. If we tuck it safely away and never make our mark on it, there’s no purpose and no real beauty. Life has purpose when we stop protecting the pretty veneer and use all 64 crayons to play with color on its pages. Life is beautiful — even on the hard days — when we let faith triumph over fear.