I went to college in Maryland, and while I now live in the mid-west, I have many friends and connections in the DC metro area, including Baltimore. My perception of Baltimore may be somewhat different from others, since I’ve only been there a handful of times and when I was there, did one of two things: go to the inner harbor and do tourist stuff, and visit death row. I used to write to a man on death row in Baltimore’s “super max” penitentiary, and made a visit with him once. I also stood in prayer vigil with others as Maryland executed Wesley Baker in 2005. So for those of you who live in and love Baltimore, you’ll forgive me if my perception of the city is a bit warped by only having seen the best and worst of what it has to offer, and not much in between.
That said, I can’t stop thinking about what has been happening there. And what, for so long, hasn’t been happening there. Namely, anyone in power giving a shit about the systemic destruction of the community where these uprisings are now occurring. Namely the systematic isolation, redlining and other tools of social engineering that have created communities where dysfunction, trauma, and poverty run generations deep and those of us who have not known social chaos born of generations of unhealed trauma can’t begin to understand. But no one is talking about this, unless its to blame the people themselves for not being better, for not magically knowing how to be more like “us”.
Where was the news media when West Baltimore was ravaged by the scourge of sub-prime mortgages which subsequently left thousands homeless and with trashed credit to boot? Where were the arrests for destruction of property when predatory lenders offered upside down mortgages to people they knew couldn’t pay?
Something else that has gotten to me lately, is the way we talk about people on the margins. I’ve just begun noticing this, but now I can’t stop seeing it. People on the margins are always discussed by those in power as problems to be solved, not persons to be loved.
Women have experienced this when we are told that our bodies are a problem to be solved, and if we just cover them “right” and don’t go to certain neighborhoods, and police ourselves, we won’t get raped. Because our bodies are the problem. Maybe the same view is at work in communities of color, when the discussion is always framed around how black communities are one big problem that needs solving. Too violent, too poor, too uneducated, too sad. But yet, a community is nothing more than the people who make it up. And if I’ve learned nothing else from my faith, it’s this: persons are to be loved, not used, and not written off.
There’s been so much emphasis on the challenges that urban communities of color face, and not enough emphasis on the people who make up these communities. People with goals, dreams, hopes, fears, traumas and problems, yes, but also courage and hope. What if what people of color need from us is less of us telling them how awful their communities are, and more of us listening to their stories and offering help that they themselves think they need? One principle of Catholic Social Teaching is subsidiarity, which offers that decisions ought to be made by the smallest possible unit to do so. Don’t communities of color know what they need? Perhaps we should do more asking and less telling? Martin Luther King Jr once described a riot as “the language of the unheard”. After what we’ve seen time and time again in the wake of the killing of unarmed citizens by their police, I’d say we are hearing from these communities in ways we do not like, because we’ve refused to listen or understand in the past.
The larger passage that quote is taken from is particularly telling, in that it was written more than 40 years ago and could have been penned last week.
“Now I wanted to say something about the fact that we have lived over these last two or three summers with agony and we have seen our cities going up in flames. And I would be the first to say that I am still committed to militant, powerful, massive, non-violence as the most potent weapon in grappling with the problem from a direct action point of view. I’m absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt. And I feel that we must always work with an effective, powerful weapon and method that brings about tangible results. BUT it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.” – MLK Jr.
I myself have been guilty of this view, of seeing people are problems to be solved ahead of persons to be loved. From this sin, dear Lord, deliver me, and all your people.
Laura of Mothering Spirit is one of my “writing role models”. I love everything about the way she tells her story and listens intently to the stories and voices of others. And she’s a Domer, so that’s awesome. As I sit here, having come only a few hours ago from handing over the keys of the little house on St. Joseph Street to the beaming couple ready to start their next chapter, I clicked on Laura’s email with her guest post, and cried just a few (OK maybe a few more than a few) tears because every word she writes is real. This prayer is all the jumbled up happy-sad I’m feeling and can’t quite put words to just yet. So thank you, thank you, Laura.
We moved to our current house when our first son was 2.5 years old and our second son was 9 months old. We did all the moving ourselves (because it was only 15 minutes away! we wanted to save money! we were young and strong! NEVER NEVER AGAIN).
So the two months between finding the perfect house and signing the final closing? Stressful and scattered and spinning and oh-so-overwhelming.
Aside from the practical hair-pulling about how to pack up a house with two small children underfoot, I was also surprised to find how emotional the move was.
Even though it was time for us to grow into a bigger space with our growing family, I was still sad to leave our first home. Where we moved in together as newlyweds. Where we brought our babies home. Where we started learning how to be a family.
I found myself praying for funny things during that time of transition. I prayed for the house that had sheltered us. I prayed for the strangers who would soon call it their home. I prayed for the family who had lived in our new house before us. I prayed for neighbors here and there. I even prayed in gratitude for box after box after box that we lugged from house to house, late at night, pick-up truck load after pick-up truck load.
Because we were blessed with full arms and full hearts, as we left one home behind and entered the next.
Today I share this prayer with Sarah—and with any of you who are working to move your family through a major transition. I wrote it three years ago, smack-dab in the middle of our move, late one night when I needed to find God’s grace in the midst of cardboard boxes and packing tapes and heaps of black garbage bags heading for Goodwill.
Today I pray that all of us can remember—no matter where we call home, no matter what stress threatens our peace—that God is home for us.
A Prayer for Moving to a New House
God who is unchanging through our changes,
Be our companion through this transition
of moving to a new house.
More stressful than we planned,
more exciting than we realize, this move is pure chaos— but precisely what you use to bring forth new life.
Sit with us as we say goodbye to our home: as we take down pictures from walls thick with memories and look wistfully on apple trees we planted that we’ll never see bear fruit.
Help us remember that you are the source of all blessings: those that fit in boxes and those that are too big to pack. Thank you for the friends and family who gathered round our table, the babies who filled the bedrooms, the nights of laughter that echoed through the halls.
When the packing and unpacking,
the moving and the hauling
become too much, help us to slow down
and savor a moment of goodness
in the midst of hard work.
Forgive us our short tempers and cross words. Teach us to ask for help when we need it.
And let us not forget a sense of humor as we try to accomplish anything with crawling baby and curious toddler underfoot.
Bless the young couple who will next make this house their own. May they enjoy its gifts and embrace its quirks. May they grow in love for each other within its walls. May our nostalgia at leaving
be surpassed by their joy at arriving. (And please, may they not dig up all those lovely bulbs in the yard!)
Guide us as we begin to create a new home for our family.
As we paint the walls,
dig up the garden,
and unpack endless boxes,
help us to celebrate the possibilities in front of us.
Open our eyes to take the long view,
worrying less about how we will get it all done
and imagining more the memories we will create
in a new space.
God, time and time again
you have led your people—
from homeland to far-off shores,
from known to unknown,
from darkness to light.
Let me trust that you lead us still,
that you open the way before us.
In peace and hope and promise, I pray—
A frazzled moving mama
This prayer originally appeared at Mothering Spirit.
Jess is really cool. I’ve been following her writing about feminism and Catholicism for a long time, and I love it. She is wise, yo. And, she like poetry. I know how to pick friends, don’t I? Today she’s talking about some of her favorite volumes.
A Post Where I Talk About Every Poetry Book I Own.
Hello, Fumbling Toward Grace readers! I’m Jess and I write over at Jess Fayette: Cathofeminism. As Sarah is taking it easy this week, (Ha!) I volunteered to fill in for a day, and I could think of no better subject than my favorite poetry.
As a sometimes angst-ridden tween and teen, I had spiral notebooks and boxes of loose-leaf paper filled with neatly rhymed poetry. I’d sit in my room with candles and incense lit, music playing, and write page after page of ABAB or ABABC verses. Sometimes I’d mix it up, but I was a pretty straight forward (and terrible) poet. There was even a terrible but ambitious song written that is burned into my memory. I lean more towards novels or memoirs these days, but poetry was my entrance into a love of being the author of the written word.
Children’s Poetry- Knock at a Star:
By far my most dog-eared book, and one of the only ones I have kept through the years. I am so happy that I have it around to pass on to my kiddos someday. It has different sections to introduce children to different forms of poetry. One of my favorites from this compilation is Travelers by Josephine Miles.
Poet– Edgar Allan Poe:
It might be cliché to name Poe, but I love his work. I was first introduced to him in the fifth grade by my lit teacher. He can be a bit tedious and long winded for some, but he knew what emotions he was trying to evoke. I always have appreciated his confidence in his own words. My favorite poem of his is definitely Annabel Lee, but I recently discovered he had written something involving Mary, so it has quickly become beloved.
At morn — at noon — at twilight dim —
Maria! thou hast heard my hymn!
In joy and wo — in good and ill —
Mother of God, be with me still!
When the Hours flew brightly by,
And not a cloud obscured the sky,
My soul, lest it should truant be,
Thy grace did guide to thine and thee;
Now, when storms of Fate o’ercast
Darkly my Present and my Past,
Let my Future radiant shine
With sweet hopes of thee and thine!
Blast from the Past – Revolution on Canvas:
In 2005, I heard about a poetry book that had work from all my favorite bands. It was an incredibly exciting find as the only poetry I was paying attention to at the time was in music form. Revolution on Canvas has some really great work from all your favorite early 2000 emo/punk/alternative bands: The Format, Taking Back Sunday, Something Corporate, and many more. It’s a great way to relive your angsty years.
To-Read – Brothers on Life (Matt and Mike Czuchry)
I was flipping through the channels a year or so ago when I found Matt Czuchry stumping his latest project- a book- on some talk show. Of course it went on my to-read list. When I opened it to thumb through it, I found most of it was poetry. I’m saving it for a rainy day when I have some time to myself. I think that a memoir-style poetry book is right up my alley.
If you’ve found yourself in a reading rut and you need something that is conducive to life as a parent or life as someone short on time, maybe poetry is just what you need!
who has to pee
when did i last nurse
do they need a snack or should i leave them alone
how wet is that spot on the bed and do i have to wash these sheets
how long can they screamfight before I need to intervene
I just love Bobbi. She is like the awesome, inspiring big sister I never had and always wished for. Her blog, Revolution of Love, is so uplifting and just beautiful. It made me so happy when she graciously accepted my pleading for her to guest post for me. If you don’t already follow Revolution of Love, you simply must. Thanks so much, Bobbi!
Happy feast of the Annunciation!
When I was younger, and after my reversion to the church, one of my favorite bible scriptures was Luke 1:38. “Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” The words touched my heart, especially since at the time I was also struggling with whether or not I was being called to a religious vocation. Part of me thought it was a beautiful and noble calling to be the bride of Christ. The other part of me thought, it’s great as long as God is not calling me, a boy-crazy romantic.
Boy-crazy or not, I went away for a summer-long discernment retreat with a group of lay consecrated women. I figured I’d give it a try (and prove that I was not called to that kind of life.) I went in thinking, “There’s no way,” but a curious thing happened in there. First, the amount of time I spent in prayer really started to soften my hardened heart. I keenly remember having to adjust to the schedule and bell that rung moving us from one activity to another. When the bell tolled, we were to stop what we were doing and move on to the next activity. There was no, “Hold on one sec,” or “Let me just finish this last bit.” Obedience to God was obedience to the rules and schedule. We learned to offer it up and say, “I am the handmaid of the Lord…”
As things would turn out, by the end of the retreat, I did not want to go home. I had never felt so close to God and wanted to offer my life in consecration to Him. However, my spiritual director and my confessor both advised me to return home and take a year off to pray and further discern. I did and during that time I realized I was called to be a wife and mother. But God used that summer to show me how to love and how to give and serve generously.
Fast forward sixteen years and now I am married with four children. I do not live in a monastery but our home is a little domestic church. I do not have a bell ringing, telling me to move from one activity to the next but I do have little ones that constantly interrupt my “plans.” Whether it is a sick child that needs attention or milk that spilled all over the counter or a bathroom accident that needs to be cleaned, there is a constant stream of opportunities for me to die to self and say, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
I wish I could say that I have learned to kiss the cross and offer my sacrifice with love but all too often the cross is met with a deep sigh and my muttering, “Seriously, Lord? Again?” Yeah, I have far to go but at least I am on the right road and God’s mercy is always there to pick me up and get me going again.”
So on this feast of the annunciation, let’s renew our commitment to follow Mary’s example and say yes to God in whatever He asks of us.
Bobbi is wife, mom and part time blogger. She lives on the Monterey Bay in California with her husband, teen daughter and three rambunctious little boys. When she is not dodging light sabers, she can be found outside with her family or catching a late night movie. In her spare time, sparse as it may be, Bobbi writes about family, homemaking, and loving God in the midst of daily life at her blog Revolution of Love. She is also a contributor at Blessed Is She.net.
For the first guest post in my “Epic Across the Metro Move 2015″ series, the lovely Erica from Saint Affairs is going to share some hard-fought wisdom for cultivating spiritual sisterhood. Erica is a wonderful writer and has personally motivated and inspired me in my own journey to embrace vulnerability in my writing. Make sure you stop by her beautiful blog, Saint Affairs, to read more gems like this, and this.
I am an only child. I was born to a teenage mother and absent father. I grew up in my grandparent’s home. My grandmother was often depressed and angry. I was her verbal dart board; her words pierced my flesh again and again throughout the years I spent in her home.
The holes of the wounds left me damaged, pocked and ugly. Insecure and unsure, my thin skin let every negative comment and unkind look from others seep into my heart.
Friendships were not easy for me. Through the years, I developed relationships with a handful of girls that I sort of trusted. I enjoyed their company, but I always kept them at a distance, waiting for them to realize how unlikable I was, waiting for them to wound me, too. Often, I struck first by being cold or mouthy, pushing them towards the path that I was so sure they would eventually take. The path that led away from me.
By the grace of God, a couple of these girls stuck with me and through them I added a few more friends to my circle. Most of these girls had grown up in Christian households and faith was a part of their life. I know God placed these girls in my life. He knew I needed them.
In my late teens and early twenties, I searched through God’s Word looking for love, acceptance, and comfort. I found Him there on the pages and began to understand His ways. He whispered to me, telling me that I was His and my friends were His and together we were family. We are bonded by our love for our Heavenly Father, and through that love we are sisters. Through this new understanding, I began to let my guard down and opened myself to deeper friendship, community, and family than I had ever known. I found my sisters!
They helped me to love God better, love my husband and children better, and love myself better.
Through the years, these girls and I have studied His Word, worshiped together, and attended Christian women retreats together. We have celebrated and supported one another through weddings, pregnancies, miscarriages, surgeries, and illness. Though we don’t see each other as often as we once did, we know that all we have to do is make a quick phone call, and help will be on the way!
God blessed me when He brought these girls in my life. Girls that had a heart for Him and who opened their hearts to me.
Do you have a family of sisters in Christ?
Your spiritual sisters will make you comfortable and warm. Their home will be your home, a sanctuary when the pressures of the day are pressing in on you.
Your spiritual sisters will give you a safe place to land when you stumble under the weight that you carry. They will lighten your burden and give you a reason to smile through your pain.
Your spiritual sisters will fight for you. They will fill in your weak spots with words of love. They will build you up and make you stronger.
Your spiritual sisters will tell you the truth. They see your flaws, but they encourage you to grow, improve yourself and be transformed. Their truth-telling won’t be painful because they speak from a place of love, with a desire to see you fulfill all that God has planned for you.
Your spiritual sisters feed you with the Father’s Word. They know when you are neglecting yourself. They will take care of you even when you don’t care enough to do it yourself.
How has God blessed your friendships with other women? How has your faith deepened by building community with women, by letting them love you and by loving them back?
I was a wounded, lonely child. I could have continued along that path and perpetuated the pain and loneliness in my adult life. God’s grace and mercy healed me and showed me the beauty of friendship with women. But it wasn’t always easy, and I needed Him to show me the way.
Maybe you are still hurting and lonely. Maybe you haven’t found your spiritual sisters yet.
Pray for supportive women to enter your life. God’s plan will be revealed to you in His time. Lean on Him during your period of loneliness. But don’t just wait for girlfriends to show up at your door. I know it is hard to reach out to others when you are already hurting. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and ask the girl that you see at church every Sunday out for coffee or an afternoon walk. Allow her the opportunity to say yes. You never know, she may be lonely, too.
How can you be a better friend and sister in Christ to the women in your life?
Erica is a Catholic woman, wife, and homeschooling mom. She enjoys reading, writing, knitting, and running (not necessarily in that order). She writes about her life, all its sorrows and joys, at www.SaintAffairs.com.
Let me tell you about the state of affairs. Apparently its tricky to pack an entire house AND feed, change, and keep happy 3 kids each day. Who knew? Apparently we are crazy people. We are 11 days out from the move and you may not hear from me much the next two weeks. However, fear not. Some amazing ladies are going to be guest posting on ye olde blog starting next week. Look forward to the likes of Erica, Bobbi, Laura, Jess and Nell.
In the meantime, we are celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with some wearing o’ the green.
This little monster has already outgrown her St. Paddy’s shirt, so she’s in mint leggings.
We had some wonderful fun on Sunday visiting with friends and attending a Saint Joseph festival. Maggie waited very patiently in line to have her face painted.
I know I’m biased, but is she gorgeous or what?
Tonight we are eating Guinness Irish Stew and reading Yeats while we cry about oppression into some Jameson. Sounds about right, yes? We love the feast of Saint Patrick, because both Atticus and I have some Irish heritage.
Then, on Thursday we celebrate the feast of my favorite saint, Joseph. We’ve celebrated 5 St. Joseph feasts living in this house on St. Joseph street. This will be the last. He’s the patron saint of Sicily, from whence my people come. Saint Joseph has been a huge intercessor in our lives. We prayed a novena to Joseph the month before conceiving both Maggie and the twins. Most recently we prayed a novena in the months before listing our home for sale, and the very first people who looked at the house are buying it.
So, naturally, I’m making spaghetti and meatballs. Everyone in my house loves spaghetti and meatballs and this will be the last big meal I’m cooking in this house. Seems very fitting as our time in this home draws to a close.
Skeptical about this whole moving thing.
And here’s what happens when I try to get a good photo of a pair of 16 month olds.
On that note, I wish you all a very happy feast of Saint Patrick and Saint Joseph.
As I said in Maggie’s capsule wardrobe post, she has a lot of opinions about her clothes. So many opinions. Blissfully, Mary Cate and Charlie do not have opinions about their clothes, so I get to dress them however I want. Ah, the perks of parenting toddlers. Perk? Maybe that’s the only one.
As I also mentioned in Maggie’s post, we get most of our kids clothing either second hand or deeply discounted.
These are Charlie’s church clothes. For colder weather he wears cords and sweater vests a lot. I like argyle sweater vests for little boys. And red corduroy overalls.
Adorable overalls from Baby Boden. Lumberjack flannel by Gymboree.
Most of Charlie’s shirts are from Gymboree, Gap and Old Navy.
Charlie is not a big fan of hoods of any kind, so we do a lot of zip-ups and crew necks for sweaters and sweatshirts. All of the kids have Gap sweatshirts because they are really durable and super soft. The lone hooded sweater is Cherokee by Target.
For pants, Charlie wears sweat pants almost exclusively.
5 pairs of sweats, one jeans, one cords, and one cargo. All of the sweats are either hand me downs or from Goodwill. I love the cords from Gymboree and jeans are Gap via ThredUp.
And that’s basically it for boys clothes. Charlie has a pair of robeez that are seriously amazing and a pair of sneakers from Target.
Just about all of MC’s clothes previously belonged to Maggie. Such is the lot of little sisters.
Starting with church clothes, and I just love jumpers. The gorgeous plaid one on the right is from Janie and Jack. Gap also makes the most adorable dresses for little girls.
Like I said, we all have Gap sweatshirts. For sweaters, Gymboree also makes these great cotton blend sweaters which are warm but not itchy. Isn’t that horsey sweater so cute?
I like stripes, so MC wears a lot of stripes. Recently I’ve discovered Baby Boden, a delightful British brand, after being gifted some adorable outfits for the babies. The red stripe shirt above is Boden. We have a lot of Carter’s, Gymboree and Gap in this batch.
That green puppy sweater. Am I right? So stinking cute.
For MC’s pants, it is all about leggings and sweats. And of course, what girl’s wardrobe is complete without jeggings? Majority of leggings and sweats for MC are Gymboree and Gap. Jeggings are Cherokee by Target.
Most of Mary Cate’s clothes are hand-me-down’s from Maggie, but these awesome fox pants are not. Seriously. Fox pants. I need to step away from the internet because this post is done with fox pants.
Hope you enjoyed a little peek into the kiddos closets. What are your go-to brands for durable and beautiful kids clothes?
Friends, I was so delighted to have the opportunity to attend a gathering of the Catholic Women Blogging Network at Notre Dame. Because I need an excuse to visit the most beautiful campus in America, right? So throw in Nell, Bonnie, Kathryn, and my real life bestie Elizabeth, and I was down to party.
There were snacks, naturally.
There were selfies, naturally. Lots of selfies.
Bonnie and Katrina did an amazing job of planning this day to rest, connect, and re-engage with our writing lives and pick up some blogging tips and resources along the way. Katrina gave each woman two beautiful handmade prints from her new endeavor, Hatch Prints. I am in love with them and only hope there will be many more.
What a gift to spend the day with these women who embody the feminine genius in all its myriad expressions, and who are sincerely sharing their hearts with the world. I’m so lucky to get to share my heart with all of you.
Yesterday’s Blessed Is She prompt for the day was father. So I skipped it. Hey, I’m in the business of truth telling over here. I skipped it because I knew there would be something there, I knew God would put something in my heart I’d have to feel. I skipped it yesterday, but came back to it today. Perhaps that’s a mark of my progress.
Of course, the readings smacked me in the face, and then it occurred to me that I’ve never told the story of how I’m forgiving my father.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.”
“If you forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”
Father and Forgive. Of course.
For me, these two words must always go together. It has to be this way because there is so much that needs to be forgiven; so much that I need the Father in order to forgive. By God’s grace, the work of forgiveness has been largely done, though maybe it will never be complete.
My first memory is of flushing my father’s drugs down the toilet. I was about 3, and he and my mother were fighting. Again. About his drug use. Again. My mother found some stash or other, and sent me to flush them. I did.
By the time I was 5, my parents had separated and reunited several times, and were separated for good. I had been in one major car accident due to his driving while high, and was a confused little girl. I loved my father. I remember him playing games with me and making me grilled cheese sandwiches while my mother was at work. I don’t remember him ever yelling at me or being abusive in any way. Like most addicts, he was two different people, depending on whether he was clean or using. Its hard enough for adults to understand; kids, forget it. Confusion reigns.
Throughout the years after my grandparents took over raising me, I saw my father periodically. I remember the day of my first Holy Communion being ruined when he showed up high for Mass. His mother and father, my Catholic grandparents, who had come so far to share the day with me, were devastated and it was a long time before I saw them again. He would arrive for a visit, stay a few hours, and leave to try and manipulate some local doctors into giving him drugs. Sometimes he came back. More than once, I sat at the window for hours, waiting for my father who would not be back.
Can you see now why I skipped the “father” prompt? How its a mark of progress that I returned to it at all?
By the time I entered high school, he was gone for good. The last time I spoke with him was around my 12th birthday. He was high. I was old enough to tell him that if he couldn’t call me sober, he shouldn’t call me at all. He didn’t. So I spent at least the next ten years believing that I was worthless because he chose drugs over me.
The loss of my mother was traumatic, but it did not cause me shame. I knew, without a doubt, that if my mother could have, she would have done anything in her power to stay alive for me. I knew this, and I know it still.
But the abandonment of my father. A completely different story. The shame runs so deep in this loss that even as I type this more than 15 years later, I’m trying to decide if I should publish it. You see, what if you realize what a terrible child I must have been, for my own father to leave me. You see, what shame can do? How even in hearts mostly healed, it can creep back in like the coward it is.
I struggled mightily to believe that God actually gave a shit about me. How could he? How could a God allow such suffering in the life of a child, and actually care? As a child, theology was lost on me, and for many years after, I resisted any real belief in a caring God.
Then something happened. I was in college and heard a woman speak about forgiveness. Her young daughter had been kidnapped and murdered, and she had forgiven the man who did it. She had leaned in to her Catholic faith and fought the destruction of self caused by hate. She forgave him. Surely, if she could forgive so much and find peace, then I could too?
So I did what she said. I asked God to help me forgive him. Which sounds so little, but in reality, it split everything wide open. I did not want to forgive my father, because I equated forgiveness with permission. If I forgave him, I was condoning what he did, right?
Dear hearts, this is not so. Forgiveness is not permission. We do not forgive people who have wounded us deeply because we get to a point where we are “ok” with their words or actions. I will never be “ok” with the way my father abandoned me. But I have forgiven him, in the sense that he no longer holds power over my heart. I have let go of the anger and resentment. God’s grace and gentle calls to open my clenched fists of rage just a little, let me feel the sweet release of freedom.
I still feel pain when I think of that little girl who believed she was worthless, and that’s why her father left. I want to reach back through the years and hold her close, whisper how beautiful, worthy, and loving she is. How it is his tragedy more than hers. How in time she will see him with eyes of pity for all of the demons who haunted him and all of the beautiful things he sacrificed for his god.
Today, I look at the woman I have become, who grace and love have made me, and I feel sad for him to not know me. I am someone worth knowing. My husband and children are people worth knowing and loving. He has missed all this, and perhaps that is punishment enough.
The moment forgiveness becomes possible is when we can hold in tension these truths: what happened to me is not acceptable, but I am so much more than acceptable . The pain that others inflict upon us does not define our dignity or worthiness of giving and receiving love. We are more than the worst thing that has happened to us.