Loving My Enemy

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven… If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” Matthew 5:43-48

 By the age of eleven, and flanked by a couple of loyal companions, she was a force to be reckoned with. And if her stare didn’t send you in the other direction, then her insults most certainly would. As a newcomer into the school, I expected much of this and still I wondered just what I had done to incur such special attention. Indeed it seemed as if I was her sole mission, and in one afternoon I was.

Finding me relatively alone on the playground, she and her cohorts spied my backpack and started going through it. “Hey, that’s mine! You can’t do that!” , I shouted.
“Watch me!” she quipped.
Jumping off the swings and seizing my bag I began to walk away. Only to hear their footsteps behind me. As I turned, there she was ready to reassert her authority, pushing me swiftly to the ground.

Somewhere amidst the punches thrown and hair pulled I no longer was afraid.  The principal arrived just in time to see me stand on my feet and her friends run off. Of course both our parents were both called but only mine came that day. Well aware of the history of problems that this girl had been involved in, my mom was told that I was not in trouble and he was sorry to not have arrived sooner.

At first, I felt a sense of victory, no less a modern-day David and Goliath story. And then, over the proceeding weeks and months, when she was no longer bothering me, I was given a different perspective. I started noticing that for parent days, science fairs, and music performances, she was alone. Even her recess was spent trying to secure a spot atop the monkey bars for herself and perhaps a friend. From this vantage point she didn’t have to worry about fitting in.  And from here, she intentionally threw herself off – breaking her arm in a desperate cry for attention.

This was not a first for her, but it was a first for me to empathize and even pray for the one who I felt had persecuted me. With a reversal of fortune, and a helping of grace I saw not her persona but her as a person. A girl who, much like me, was created and loved by God but who had never had anyone express her value adequately. And as a defense, there were walls that seemed almost impenetrable.

Rather than confront or abut these walls, I instead prayed for her. Teachers I noticed too tried to help whenever possible. Until a year later, when she was suddenly absent. Over the years, I have wondered where she had gone and just who she would become. I hoped that she and her family had made a home. Moreover I prayed that the fresh start would allow her the freedom to shed the tough image she had portrayed for so long. Today, I am ever so grateful for this life altering perspective that has allowed me to not be so quick to judge what my eyes first perceive.

Reflect:

Is there someone who needs my forgiveness and prayers that I might instead be withholding? What might I see if I walked alongside my “enemy”?

Peace,

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Living Redeemed

“A pessimism of life is not Christian. It is rooted in not knowing that you are forgiven, it is rooted in not feeling the caress of God. And the Gospel, we may say, shows us this joy.” We must make “every effort to show that we believe we are redeemed, that the Lord has forgiven us everything.” Pope Francis, general audience, 12/21/17.

During Lent, as Catholics, we often speak of things given up or challenges taken on all with the intention of growing closer to God. Even the smallest thing can subtly secure a place of importance in our lives, usurping family, friends, and even Christ as the center of our lives. And at some point in our faith, each of us has felt this pull away from temptation and sin, towards God’s limitless love and mercy. Yet once aware and received, do we live it… do we live our life knowing that we are redeemed?

The first part to this you see is knowing that we are a people forgiven. Even before we speak of it, that our sin is known, but also ready to be pardoned. That though there is nothing that we can do to earn God’s grace, that it is there in anticipation -already won by Christ’s victory on the cross. Yet, part of the difficulty lies in our own struggle with forgiveness including that of forgiving ourselves. We hold onto our fears, faults and limitations and then place those upon God. Nevertheless, our God is a promise keeper and not bound by our human imaginations always ready to welcome us home.

Several years ago, I had an unexpected but similar conversation with a man then in his 50s who had stopped into Starbucks for a coffee. Noticing my t-shirt which sported one word forgiven, with forgive highlighted, he had felt compelled to ask the question. “Pardon me, but I could not help but notice your t-shirt..What is it that you could ever have to be forgiven for?”  Oh, what a conversation starter that turned out to be!

Marketing statistics note that people will read and remember a t-shirt slogan when they may not crack open a book, or even remember your name. In this case, he had looked at me, my smile and made his own presumption as to what a sinful person should look like and in general what Christianity represented. “Unfortunately, your supposition is not uncommon, I said, that as Christians we have given a false face to the incredible gift of grace and redemption. And while undoubtedly I fall short every day, I live knowing that I am loved beyond measure. How could I ever not be joyful about that? ”

With that, his look of curiosity and concern turned to a smile.  Sharing a bit of his childhood faith, he explained how life and circumstances had moved him away from church. How every time he had considered returning he had been met with an unconvincing expression of gloominess, judgement or hypocritical behavior. “Well though we are to be the body of Christ in this world, the human part of us can, at times, behave more like an amputated limb.” I quipped.  “When that happens it means that we too, even temporarily, have forgotten the love and mercy of Christ.”

Our children more easily understand what we, as adults, have made such a formidable challenge- that we are unconditionally loved. They come to us with penitent hearts and  tears but with a certain assurance too that they will be forgiven. And just as soon as they are, the sadness is replaced with joy and they are free to embrace the day and one another. With Easter upon us, let us live today with that same joy, and trust in God’s mercy, as a people redeemed, reclaimed and loved.

Pray:

“Jesus you have won the victory, the power of your life shines in me. Though I do not always live this life perfectly, I rest in knowing my life is perfected in you.  And if you send someone to me today that needs to hear this message of love and forgiveness may I reflect this light of joy in my redemption.”

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Joy Stealer or Faith Grower?

Perspective they say is everything, and when we choose to look at situations with new eyes, better yet God’s eyes, we are given a real invitation to grow in faith..

Currently, in our society where individualism and our own happiness has been regarded as utmost priority there is great emphasis placed on that which makes us momentarily feel good.  We are quick  to avoid the situations that disturb our inner peace, upset out schedule and call us out of our comfort zone. Even in our relationships we grumble, resist and distance ourselves from those that are most difficult to deal with.

I pause here for an honest confession… I have chosen the path of feeling annoyed and complaining lately. Faced with a seemingly unchanging resistance from others to my own desire to be joyful,  I had decided it best to create some distance. A mini retreat of sorts, I recognized that I needed a break in order to get a bit of perspective. In taking this opportunity to go out into the “wilderness”  to spend some alone time in prayer, to reflect on what  is being asked of me I now have a better understanding of what Christ desires.

First, I realize that I cannot remain on permanent retreat from all that I feel attempts to steal my joy. Obvious exemptions would be situations that are physically or mentally abusive. Yet, what I am talking about are difficult people, or particularly trying situations that continually test my patience and call for regular forgiveness.

Case in point:

1.The “one way or no way” attitude: The phone rings and I notice the caller id. As the conversation ensues I am struck by the familiarity of the questions and topics of discussion.  Can we ever go deeper? No, not if it remains a one sided barrage of questions where there is only one answer desired. No, not if there isn’t active listening, appreciation of the other person, and a desire to have true dialogue. So, I listen and leave the discussion wondering why I spent my time in this way.

2. The “blinking red light”: Here is the person that is constantly in hot water. If the issue doesn’t involve them directly they feel it necessary to stir the waters that potentially create a tempest situation. Oh, did you have plans today? Well, this is far more important and if you weren’t concerned before..you should be by now.  So, I listen, offer advice, help where I can, and spend the day praying that they find peace.

Selfishly at times I have asked God, “Why have you placed these rocks in my path, why am I being asked to deal with stubbornness and anxiety?”

His answer, “Elizabeth because you have yet to learn the incredible lessons of love and forgiveness that I have been so desperately seeking to instill in you! Do you honestly think that you are without fault, malleable, secure in my loving plan and accepting of all that I am calling you to be?”

“No, Father… I have much to learn. Yet, I am desperately trying to understand though. Isn’t that good?”

Yes, but you cannot get comfortable with where you are- because I am asking so much more of you. Each of my children has a purpose and a journey. Sometimes this journey leads others to learn from you and other times their purpose is to challenge you to grow.

I have choices in how I encounter others. If my life isn’t rooted in love, patience, and forgiveness, how are others to truly  know Christ through me?  Moreover, our lives are meant to be proof of God’s deep call to a new life, faith that though times get difficult there is hope that our loving Father is working all for good.  This inbreaking of the Kingdom of God isn’t merely an inner journey or a futuristic promise of heaven…but it begins with me today.

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Moments of Clarity

It’s Worth Revisiting Wednesday! A place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link-up with fellow bloggers! Co-Hosted with Allison Gingras at Reconciled To You.


7 Quick Takes-Moments  of Clarity

(Originally posted November 7, 2014)

1// This week has been a reminder of the glimpses God gives us of his mercy, love and forgiveness.

Those moments whereby we are challenged to move, grow and reach out to one another in love. The ready invitation to leave our comfort zone to listen, hold and  share our hearts and journeys with others.

2// My 7 Quick Takes week began..

by assisting with a women’s retreat on Forgiveness hosted by co-blogger and supervisor Allison Gingras. This easily prompted the first of these reflective moments!  “I am thankful for the opportunity to forgive and to be forgiven, one teaches me mercy, the other humility”. (A. Gingras)  What a grace it is to embrace this in our lives! While our hearts must be led by mercy, we need to resist the temptation to see ourselves as blameless without need of forgiveness. How many times have I caused injury, or has someone needed to forgive me recently? I may never know the fullness of this answer, but for those times, Father forgive me.

3// “Forgiveness requires letting go of being right, of justice, evening scores and of an apology.” (Fr. Scott Hurd)

Oh, the thorny brambles we find ourselves in when led by righteousness and the need for validation! Instantly, we begin seeking those conversations and relationships whereby we are the hero and someone else made the villain. In doing so, we cling to the pain and our pride takes hold. Increasingly we find ourselves entangled in its grip. Lord help me to cling to you, the vine rather than the bramble.

4//“Forgiveness is not reconciling, as it takes one person not two”. 

Seeking forgiveness, is about finding peace and while we might wish for reconciliation- that is not guaranteed. Sometimes all that we can offer and hope for is forgiveness. Letting go of the outcome frees us to then move forward in our faith lives to grow in acceptance and give the controls to God. Lord I relinquish all authority to you, may my desire for peace be enough. Lead me because I can’t do this alone.”

5// And my own special sound bite from the retreat, “The Holy Spirit rocks!”

(If ever there was any doubt.) This retreat had an incredible turnout and the feedback extremely positive. The telling moment for me came in tending to the reconciliation line which was continuous and lasted over 2 hours! Within this there were prayerful conversations and moments of conversion of heart. So beautiful! Thank you Father for the gift of your Spirit which seeks to guide, transform and heal our hearts. I just want to praise you!

6// On a more personal note,

however, I received word a few days ago that someone that I am quite close to was diagnosed with inoperable throat cancer. As he comes to terms with the diagnosis and the given chances for survival, he is seeking greater reconciliation and connection in his life. He has been through so many trials in his life, including a stroke and several bouts of double pneumonia. Yet, I can feel that this is quite different, and he is preparing to die. In speaking with him today, he asked if I would call him to chat for a little bit each week. “Yes, of course!”. What a gift you have given me Father in this time with him.  Please, I pray for your voice and heart to guide me. If I can be of any help, I humbly offer my all.

7// So while clarity at times reveals deep hurt, difficulties, or challenges, I have found that God is there also- reaching out with open arms to embrace.

Why wait for a doctor’s call, or a life crisis to seek forgiveness and peace in our lives? Why hold on to pain when we could take hold of Christ’s hand? Jesus you are the voice of truth. You see us, know us, forgive us and love us in spite of all that we do and fail to do. While I can never repay this gift, I will spend a lifetime trying.

Peace in Christ,

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