Thursday, March 31, 2016

Emptiness, Forgiveness

I'm sick. The little kids have all been sick, too, and sometimes I think it's kinder for everyone to go down at once, but it hasn't gone that way, this time; someone has been sick for weeks, and maybe it's the flu: exhaustion, body aches, light fever, and worst of all, a pervasive, hacking cough: the kind that doesn't go away with hot drinks, cold drinks, cough drops, or nebulizer treatments. The kind that makes your ribs hurt.

I could easily write a blog post about my physical sickness, but I'm more interested in thinking and writing about what happens to me when my defenses are down. I become every wounded age I've ever been. I feel as hollow as a wing bone, which is to say that I wrestle with a sense of emptiness. The fact that I can name it is progress. The fact that I can have conversations with myself about it is progress.

When I feel empty, I (think I) want everyone I've ever lost to come back. I (think I) want everyone who's ever hurt me to show up and say (s)he's sorry.

But I know I don't: not really. What would I do with all those people in my current state? I'm sick as a dog. I'm wearing neither make-up nor a bra.

The fact that I can identify that I don't really want everyone I've ever lost to come back--or everyone who's ever hurt me to show up and say (s)he's sorry--is progress. I used to take my (yet unnamed) feelings of emptiness and do dangerous, destructive things. Sometimes it worked out (kind of); for example, I reconnected with Jim in an effort to fill a (perceived) void. I didn't know it then, but I know it, now. I was in the throes of a break-up with another man, and Jim was someone I'd lost some thirteen years before. He was someone who had hurt me. (I had hurt him, too.)

But I've gone off course. In my physical sickness, my defenses are down. I feel empty, and so many difficult memories have come to mind over the last couple days. And this is where I want to go with this post: instead of doing dangerous, destructive things, I am learning to turn to God. More specifically, I am learning to ask God to forgive me for my unforgiveness of others. I came across this concept in Stormie Omartian's Lord, I Want to Be Whole. It rattled my cage to the point that I put the book down for something like a month. Really, God? You want me to confess when I was the person wronged? You want me to ask Your forgiveness for my unforgiveness toward these people who hurt me so deeply? And, yes. I do think that's what God is asking of me. Furthermore (and this really hurts my brain), I think He wants me to seek His forgiveness for my unforgiveness of myself. Because if He has forgiven me for something, who am I to hold and use it against myself?

I'm finding that it's one thing to say I want to forgive someone and another altogether to confess and seek forgiveness for my unforgiveness. I'm finding that it's still a process: that--for deep-seated hurts I've carried for years and years--I often have to confess and ask for forgiveness and help over and over. But I'm hopeful.

I'm not hopeful that everyone I've ever lost will come back or that everyone who's ever hurt me will show up and say (s)he's sorry. Even if that were realistic, it would be unrealistic to expect that I would be able to process the situation or words. Just after the holidays, in fact, someone who hurt me when I was a child apologized to me in a very sincere way (again). That doesn't mean I've managed to forgive him, but the work that needs to be done is mine.

The work that needs to be done is always mine. God is loving and merciful. He wouldn't make my healing dependent upon the actions or words of others. "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden," He says, "and I [not another human] will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28, KJV).

O Lamb of God, I come.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Clementine Turns Seven

Oh My Darlin',

On one hand, it seems like you were born yesterday, and on that hand I'm astonished--just bowled over!-- that you're seven.

But (at the continued risk of sounding like Randy Travis) on the other hand, I feel like we've been so long together, and hasn't it been fairly wearisome at points? You present as "first born" just like I do, and we get stuck in cycles of bossing and fussing in which both of us can dish it out, and neither of us can take it. Why, just this morning, I yelled: "Clementine! Are you the police?" in exasperation, and in response, you rolled your eyes, which sure enough stay in their proper place no better than mine do.

But hey, now. You're sharp as a tack. Not so long ago, you came skipping into the bathroom while I was in the tub. "Can I read to you, Mama?" you asked, and I waved my copy of My Antonia at you.

"I'm already reading," I said, "but you can take over for me, if you like." I should've remembered: you haven't been intimidated by a thing your whole life long. Willa Cather, pshaw (ain't no thing but a chicken wing); you entered her words like a champ.

Also, you're tender-hearted, especially toward animals. You want a horse so badly, and the secret I haven't shared until now is that I want one for you; I do. I want art and piano lessons for you, too. I guess we'll figure it all out, in time. Meanwhile, your dog, cat, and fish are well-loved critters.

You'll always be okay, I think. You're a leader with a good head on your shoulders and Jesus in your heart. I'd be sorry for all the times we've gone 'round and 'round, but I know I've helped you raise your game...and you've helped me raise mine.

I guess life is all about each of us becoming the best possible version of herself. I say: you're already pretty terrific, so do you, Honey, and I'll always be here to cheer you on.

I love you so much,