Prudence, Justice, Strength

“Practice prudence by bringing wisdom
to our decisions and refraining from
taking unnecessary risks.

Practice justice by asking questions
about those who have less than we do,
looking for root causes of injustice
and ways we can respond.

Practice courage by considering
those places in lives where
we experience fear
and self-limitation.

Carry a sense of strength
to whatever life brings us
and a willingness to go
into unknown places
for the sake of growing closer
to God and to our
own deep desires.”

Christine Valters Paintner, PhD Desert Mothers and Fathers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings Annotated and Explained

Which of these practices (prudence, justice, courage, a sense of strength) do you most want to nurture in yourself?
tumblr_ocpnsk8IxG1qat5pio1_500

In Humility’s Scale

there ain’t much ground to stand on
there’s not a lot of space
for all my lil toesies
for my skert lil face

to go before me in the world
and represent my heart
it takes balance and grace unfurled
my banner and my part

it looks like I must tiptoe
on post and on the wire
but actually I walk in joy
aflame with Mercy Fire

so disregard what you see
and look beneath the veil
see mercy balance justice
in Humility’s scale

Blind Bartimaeus and You

“We have met the enemy…and it is us”.  I think that is a quote from an old comic strip called Pogo, and who knows if it predates that strip?  Almost certainly it does, as Solomon said so long ago there is nothing new under the sun.

But yeah…we are the enemy, our own enemy.  Here is what I want to get at in this post:

I have been so discouraged lately at the voice that is emerging inside circles of advocacy that I have been frequenting…maybe it was always there (likely), and I just had not heard it.  But it is a voice that sounds just like the voice that I used to hear in other circles that I grew up in and advocated for during earlier years before I grew and became more understanding of myself and others.

It is a voice of hate.wpid-img_448333691249833.jpeg

It is clumsy and has arthritic hands when it speaks and cannot hold small fine brushes or move with nuance, and so it paints with a broad brush in generalizations and caricatures…it is cartoonish, buffoonish…it is guffawing and backslapping…

…and the absolute worst is that it advocates the very hatred and othering and policing against others that has wounded and killed so many in LGTBQ circles.  Somehow, hatred and othering is okay because “they have it coming”.

I would say that I am embarrassed for the individuals to whom I refer, except that I am so deeply dismayed embarrassment is too embarrassed to show her face.  I think it is clear that hatred is a human heart problem…and will never ever be conquered by more hatred…ever.  Hatred can only be driven out by love, and when love is met with more hatred, the only secret weapon it has in its employ is grace, as displayed by forgiveness and then more love.wpid-fb_img_1425865715455.jpg

Constance:  if you fail to grasp this essential truth, then you will be doomed to circle the constellations in this galaxy of ideas and ideologies that provide us with cosmic meaning and orientation, and you will dwell in one thinking it is finally the one with no idiots or haters present inside it…until you hear the voice of hate and bigotry emanating from within the very halls you hallow and inhabit!

I am going to pick two things for examples:

The first was a simply post about a man who had taken his 2 children in a custody dispute…all we really knew was that this had happened, and there was some evidence of drug use and/or mental illness and distress…and there were pictures.

A picture of the man…and a picture of the lil guy he took, and one of the lil daughter he took…and all I saw was eyes.

Haunted eyes, each one.  Sad eyes, desperate eyes…eyes that cried out like Bartimaeus “Son of  David have MERCY on me and LET ME SEE!”  The oldest of these children (the dad) had a whole history in his eyes, no, a legacy…of pain, of confusion and sorrow, of despair served in daily doses as the only draught to drink in horrible deserts bereft of love…and the youngest of the eyes (the kids) were in pain as well, but still innocent enough to hope and believe that it would pass, the horror, like a rain storm, and momma and daddy would love each other and love them.

I burst into tears and began to beg…literally beg Mama to fly to them and rescue them all three…

…and then I began to read the comments about the article, with gleeful jibes thrown, and schadenfreude running rampant as the demise of this dad was held up as “getting what he deserved”.

Oh Mama…may I never EVER get what I deserve…Son of David, deliver me from what I deserve and let me see!!!

The second example is from a long post, written by an obviously intelligent, sensitive and aware caring young person…earnest and passionate, and on fire to move against injustice…and so absolutely certain that all it takes is her voice and the voices of her compatriots who just say “No more” and call out the offenders and the haters and the (fill in the blanks)…and I think this post dismayed me more than the first example, because she was so blind to her own broad-brush strokes, generalizations, and culpability in being an exact mirror to the sort of behavior she decried.
tumblr_nlo1ogBFSk1s2z59jo1_1280
She led with the typical sort of introduction that I encounter when I am defiled by the comments from my haters:

“…I am compelled, for several reasons, to respond to you. Please know that I do so out of a desire not to attack you, but for you to hear something that needs to be heard…”

Of course it goes without saying that she was not addressing LGTBQ people or individuals, or members of a group that experiences discrimination…she was addressing the people of power and privilege…people who should know better (or should they?  Are they not mere imperfect people?  Do they not have the same issues and struggles we all have in their beings, in their ontological journeys?).

{"key":"a6"}

She is compelled.  Constance, none of us is merely compelled…there is also the issue of will and choice…we feel that something is absolutely essential for us to comment on…and then we cross the Rubicon and say “compelled”…or “have no peace until I tell you this”…oh I have run the gamut of what excuse people devise in order to unload.  And there is also the assurance that there is not a desire to attack.

Did you see what she did there?  What is always done when we are going to go on a hunt for specks in our sister/brother’s eye?  It is the way we attempt to look around the beam sticking out of our own, and it is always the same:  I do not want to attack you or hurt you, oh NO!  But I am “compelled” to…I have no choice, and Ima bout ta unload both barrels on your ass, so it is your own fault for being such a (fill in the blank)…

…and then we warm to the task.

“…What is sobering and disturbing to me is that you’re so wholeheartedly standing with these men who say that so many people out there, who just want to be loved and cared for equally, without fear of persecution, like everyone else, are less than you, less than me, less than anyone else who is…”

Generalization…broad brush.  “These men who say” … “…like everyone else” … “less than anyone else who is” (and another place to fill in the blank with whatever issue is pressing on the compelled one’s heart.

And then the rest of the letter unfolds…paragraphs written passionately, eloquently, and for the sake of the forum just washing over the individuals who comprise any group on any side of an issue.  I found myself stopping during each paragraph and chewing on the nuances lost, the ways that history was condensed down to make some tired old point, and worst of all, the ways that the very audience to which she wrote was treated with the same disdain and othering that she decried was happening from them.tumblr_nob12yGJx91t5dsq4o1_500

And I cast my own mind back…to not so long ago…when I was unconscious of myself and still ripped in twain by dissociation and societal policing from childhood on up…when I myself held to the things I had been taught and thought I never had reason to question much…when I had a Christian ideology that said homosexuality was a sin…even though I interacted with many people in churches who had confided in me their struggles with their orientations and desires and their love of God.

While I never believed that God was going to send them to hell, I did cast a jaundiced, privileged eye on mentions of this issue of homosexuality that are in the New Testament and gave a casual shrug and not much else, no study really, no research into cultural context or hermeneutics…

…during this time of my life the trope “hate the sin but love the sinner” was my attempt to somehow reach out and love my fellow humans struggling in this life.

I see now how deeply othering this attitude was, how privileged and unwittingly high and mighty this was of me in what it actually communicated…

…but my motive for doing so was not…NOT what is so often accused:  an excuse to hate…it was a weak, half-hearted attempt to love and reach out to them in spite of our differences.

I knew thousands of people just like me in this regard…truly interacted with thousands…conversations, shared meals, shared prayers and tears, even shared sweat and blood…and they are people who love God, and love people too…and are whether they know it or not just like old Blind Bartimaeus crying out to Jesus as He passes by.So when I read things like this, and there are many…I remember these people (some of them even read here though they are not among Constance…they are Reader, because they still think that sexuality and gender orientation are synonymous) and my heart recoils when I feel the rage and intensity of articles written about them, to them that are written to an individual but aimed at a whole group.

I invite you over to read this article for yourself, and what scares me the most is that I might in my inadequacy and my own clumsiness misrepresent the writer or conjecture what is in her heart…and if I do, dear sister, PLEASE forgive me in advance.

It is not her writing it that I am disturbed by…but rather the way that the very tools that are used against me daily I see being used against people like so many that I know…and I imagine that those words will do no more to change their hearts than the words of the haters here at Grace Notes change mine.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/freedhearts/2015/05/20/a-straight-christian-mom-responds-to-dobsons-attack-on-gays/

What is tragic is that this article has appeared in other forums authored by a voice that is unusually balanced and deft at writing about these things without generalizations and broad brush ad hominum attack…without resorting to trope and cliche…it has appeared because there are a lot of really good topics that this writer touches on and I am sure that he wants those things to be noticed and contemplated.

But the comments…oh Mama, save us.  Gleeful…piling on…and centering each and everyone of us back in the skin of…

Blind Bartimaeus.

We have met the enemy…and she is me…the enemy is us.

Oh Constance…how about this?  Simplify it, and do justice.  Love mercy.  And walk humbly.

It’s okay to love people…even the ones who despitefully use you…yes, even “brunette” who writes here to hate on me.  I bet my bottom dollar that “brunette” truly believes that the words sent to me will somehow “jolt me awake” and draw me “back to the Lord”.  And I know that the letter I was sent by a friend for over 3 decades was written with a truly heavy heart and accompanied by the firm conviction that they were wounds from a friend, better than a thousand kisses from an enemy.  And the man who said that I was demonized literally believes in his heart that he spoke to me “the Word of the Lord”, and rests secure and yet sad for me.  I know he feels like God gave him an unfair task that he took on in love.

He is wrong of course…and yet that has NOTHING to do with his intention and motive…and so that is what I look for, search for…in justice and mercy and humility.

Imagine the shock and surprise of Blind Bartimaeus when Jesus gave him sight, but instead of seeing what normal people saw…he saw thru the eyes of God.

In deepest love, and true sorrow if I have hurt or wounded anyone in this writing…please…let us truly be of a different ilk than those who we feel are wrong.

It’s time to shatter mirrors, and behold Him and be transformed.

 

To Forgive, or not to forgive? THAT is the Question!

Dear Constance…

I was made aware of a fairly profound article today on the subject of forgiveness.  What make this article scintillating is it is taking a very “outlaw” position that runs directly counter to our cultural assumptions surrounding the topic of forgiveness:  what it is, who should give it, who deserves it.

Her take is that there is a coercion of forgiveness present in our culture that is in a sense just worthless cheap grace.  She examines the rise of those cultural assumptions and exposes the underlying flaws in them.  Then, she talks about some of the ways that people respond when she shares her ideas, and in the process gives a lot to think about.

Constance, I am posting this because in many ways it mirrors my own thinking on this topic.  I think I differ just a bit, but that is due to axiomatic beginnings underlying my position, rather than any disagreement with the substance of what she writes.  But I would like to take the occasion of her thoughtful and provoking article to codify some of my own thinking on the subject.

tumblr_ncox3gsCOb1rr74i9o1_1280

First of all, the concept of forgiveness and what it is has been trashed thoroughly over the years and passing styles and fashions of thought and belief.  It has also been forced down our throat in such a way that it literally devalues the person being asked to forgive…all in the name of setting them free.  When a person can do the most heinous act, commit egregious violation and abuse, and then turn around and demand to be forgiven by the one they have wounded it is akin to giving them a free pass to another form of rape!

No…forgiveness is nothing that can ever be demanded!  No one has the right to be forgiven.  Get that!  No one has the right to be forgiven!

Anything you have a right to is in the field of Justice.  Anything you have no rights to but deeply desire is in the field of Mercy.  Any attempt to grasp which is which and when to give either or both is in the field of Humility.

Look familiar?  I thought so.

So…forgiveness.  Basically this is the decision and declaration by a person who has been violated in any way shape or form that they willingly choose to relinquish their right for justice and their right to be repaid what was taken from them and restored to a place of integration and wholeness.  There are any number of violations and any number of redresses for them…and there are some that literally cannot ever be repaid.  In our reality you always…and I mean that…you always have a right to be repaid when you are wronged.

You need to understand that if you choose to forgive (which means simply saying “you don’t owe me anything, now or ever”), you are intentioning to forgo any claim to redress and restitution.  You need to know in your heart why you are choosing this option.  You need to know that you will likely hurt and ache for a long long time, even if you forgive and usually especially if you forgive.  Forgiveness is a sacrifice, and sacrifice always…always involves suffering.

Do you see how this is something that cannot (literally) be coerced from you?  Because if you are guilted into it, or coerced into it then no matter what you have mouthed, you have not forgiven (and I am not assuming that as a value here, just stating what is and isn’t).  You have granted another the opportunity to “get away with something”, and this is horrible for them!!  Oh yeah.  You think it is bad if you confront someone, that it might cause hard feelings?  Think about the condition that results in letting someone get away with something, which further emboldens them, lets them sink deeper into their places of being violators…

What is crucial here is to understand the core, the absolute essence of what you do and why you do it when you forgive.  That is a journey only you can make.  There are sources to consult that will help guide you…there are powers that will assist you should you decide that the sacrifice of forgiveness is one that you choose to make…but it is only genuine if you walk that lonesome valley every last inch yourself, right there in the shadow of death, and then emerge on your own terms.

tumblr_ncktti7UgB1sq2xoeo2_r2_500

I want to share with you my own position on this topic.  Of course you can expect that as best as I have been able to figure out, I have sought to base my thinking on the life and example of Jesus, Who is God Incarnate to me, and thus as an example is an easily seen picture of the Creator’s desire for the ways in which we “do relationship”…and also on the further writings in the New Testament which I believe to have been inspired in the heart of the author by Lady Grace, and then written out and set in counter-balance with other writings so that there is a dynamic tension which would always drive us to the Person of God and keep us from the horror of a behavioural code which would doom us all.

I think there are 2 very important sub-categories to the general act called “forgiveness”

The first one I call “Universal Forgiveness”.

What this refers to is the state of being that all humans are currently in due to the Crucifixion that hangs in the very center of the Universe and
penetrates/intersects/pierces every reality and every time and every culture and every experience.

In this Highly Exalted and Ultimate Act, all things have been set up for the opportunity to find wholeness once again…the chance to be made brand new!  Not just a “re-run” or a do-over”, but the chance to actually become something you never were before!

This state of forgiveness has nothing to do with any decision that anyone makes but The One who was crucified.  Makes sense, it is consistent with what I had said earlier about the essence of forgiveness.  If you never know about it, it is still done, and you are still poised for the full freedom that its embrace entails.  If you know all about it, but reject it as unnecessary, it changes nothing about it.  And, if you fully embrace it and receive, it still changes nothing!

It simply changed the climate once for all in the entire Universe!  His words “Forgive them Father, they know not what they do”…they echo into all of our dark and ignorant, benighted nooks and crannies!  But those words themselves have nothing to do with the fate of a violator in and of themselves!  They are not a free pass, a get out of jail free card.

There remains the question:  if indeed this Action IS, then there are results assumed, demands implied, or consequences ready to unfold depending on anyone’s choice of what to do about this deed, if anything…and that is where we get to the second sub-category, and it is in this category that I think the author of this article has a powerful and cogent offering to us.

The second category is what I call “Personal Forgiveness”.

Think of Scrooge McDuck’s treasure vault, okay?  All the gold, the jewels, the dollar bills, the wealth just spewing out everywhere.  Now think of the key to that door being available…all you have to do is go ask the authority who watches over the vault if they would give you the key.  Whether or not you do that is your choice…but here is what happens…ask not and you need to go round up your own treasure.  Ask…and it is yours for the taking, as much as you need!

But you have to ask.

Similarly, if you desire personal forgiveness in the broad sense of the word for all the wrongs and bent of your being, you must ask the One who has the treasure and the key.

If you do ask, it comes to you with a couple of rules:

first is that you are receiving freely, there is no price you can pay that is enough to cover the cost…it is free…and as a free gift you are then bound to give freely as well.

And the second is that from that day forward, however and in what manner you choose to forgive others you are setting the measure for your own forgiveness process.  Again know that I am asserting that based on my understanding of the words of Jesus.  You will have to decide if it has any merit on your own.

Now, and this is crucial to get:  as you choose to grant forgiveness, your forgiveness will function in both the “Universal” arena and the “Personal” area.  That point is the absolute key to a clear heart in your decisions about forgiveness.

Now it is time to explore the process on our end personally…let me take you through my own decision matrix, okay?

There was a situation that I am thinking of in which I was deeply violated, actually spiritually ganged up on by a group of men in the “Name of Jesus” (of course, isn’t it always?)…I left that meeting torn up inside, literally mauled and torn apart, and each one of them had taken their turn at me.  I was absolutely completely totally innocent of the charges.  But how does one prove a negative?  Right?  If it did not diminish the horror and evil of actual physical rape, I would call it a spiritual rape.

tumblr_nciub8E0kv1qllucco5_500

As I drove home, barely able to see from the tears and sorrow and hurt of violation, I was talking to Them, for They knew of my innocence!  And I was running thru the matrix, and ultimately was able to choose to forgive, and by that I meant in the Universal sense…they did not know what they thought they knew.  I chose that they did not owe me anything before God for what had occurred.

I never ever told them of this…nothing is quite so smarmy and sickening as the so called saint who comes back and boasts odiously “I forgive you”, when in fact you haven’t asked for forgiveness and maybe you don’t need forgiveness!  Maybe they are just offended right?

No, I never said a word, but inside my own heart, still hurt and torn (and was for months after) I declared that they did not owe me.  I did so because I felt that to be the authentic loving thing to do, and because I know…I know what a generous measure I need for forgiveness in my own life!  I want to over-forgive rather than under-forgive!

But I never ever brought it up with those men.  And there is not one of them that I ever tried to be close to or spend time with or give access to my heart to.  Why would I?  They were violators…but worse…they were unrepentant!

After several weeks, one of them finally pulled his head and came to me.  Stupid me, I thought he had come to repent, and my heart leapt in joy at the chance to truly forgive a truly repentant heart.

See, repentance is not “just being sorry”.  It is not mere remorse, not mere apology.  No, repentance is when you know…you know what you have done, and there has been a deep and fundamental sorrow over that act accompanied by a total determination to do whatever is necessary to repair and restore the person hurt.  Repentance is when you have the revelation that what you did was wrong, period.  Full stop.  End of story.  There is no justification, no excuse, no explanation…there is only:

“I hurt you terribly, and I was sooo deeply wrong!  I grieve over what I have done and will do my best to learn from this and ask for help in becoming a different and better person.  Should you ever decide to give me the opportunity to repair and restore our friendship it will be far greater than I deserve.  In the meantime, I withdraw to give you space to make the best decision for you, and just know I will be refining everyday, seeking to become better.”

Or words to that effect.

Sigh…as I look back I see how this was a difficult thing for me to learn…the presence of an apology does not indicate a truly repentant heart.  It is one of the ways that we empower abusive people in our relationships, this notion that an apology is the purchase medium and forgiveness is the commodity, and if you don’t “sell a forgiveness to them” then you are the one with the problem, you are the one with the issue.  That is a lie.

The only condition under which you are obligated to even take a LOOK at the possibility to give forgiveness in this category of “Personal Forgiveness” is a repentant heart making no demands whatsoever and determined to do whatever is already possible to do to repair and restore.

But no…he had gotten wind that I was hurt, and so he came and demanded I forgive him…said that he had a right to be forgiven!!  OMFG!!  (and I almost said that outloud on the spot!!)  He violated me, and then demanded his right for forgiveness.

I tried to explain to him the need for repentance, for recognition and understanding of the essential wrong and violation…his reply?  “Just tell me the magic words and I will say them, okay?”

Well, needless to say, I didn’t say to him “I forgive you”.  The mere saying of those words would have been meaningless!  There was nothing to forgive and no way to forgive because the required cognizance on his part was absent.

I had already forgiven in the Universal sense of declaring they owed me nothing…but in the personal sense, there was no platform for the forgiveness to take place, because the repentance aspect was missing.

Chew on these things for awhile…and in the mean time I will confess that I have been steeped in the Coerced Forgiveness culture, and I think that I experienced some of the wounds I did to help develop these current understandings.  Before I conclude, I will refer you to a beautiful post on forgiveness, which I think contains the elements that I refer to above…it is over at Dani’s blog “Blooming Spiders” (yaaay Dani!)…

…and then I will confess here my recent guilt of “demanding forgiveness”.  It happened last year, around this time.  I very foolishly shared some incredibly explosive news with someone I love deeper than life itself, and my timing was atrocious!  Totally self centered, completely shared out of desperation and insecurity and a deep need for this person’s love and approval.  She has always secretly been my hero, and it has at times been hard for us because we are a lot alike.  Well, she was hurt, scared, upset, angry, felt I had taken from her the aspect of choice, stripped her of any power to listen with strength and offer me the benefits of who she is.  I demanded…

…and she was not wanting to interact with me.  Understandably so, I see that now.  But at the time I was soo wracked with the guilt and horror at my poor choices and clumsy stomping around…and I was also terrified during this time that I would lose my family like what happens to the vast majority of transgender people.  I wanted some reassurance, I wanted restoration myself…but no.  Instead of waiting, patiently and penitently enduring, I demanded!

Dearest Lil Red Songbird…I was wrong.  I am so sorry for my demands…my insistences…the ways I unwittingly sought to coerce you…and while we have long resolved the original issue I want you to know that I carry that hurt everyday, as a reminder to be careful and wise, and openhanded with power.

Okay, without further ado, head over to Stir Journal and check out a very powerful and provoking piece of writing.

In a life commitment to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly…
Charissa Grace

PS:  I have a poem on this stuff:  Gifts You Give Yourself .  Perhaps it is helpful?  perhaps not…

 

tumblr_nbopl1rMIJ1sk87juo1_250