I want to finish this story - to finally say it somewhere, and then be able to pack it away again.... said, felt, thought through, and filed away. Now, if I could only organize my photos, too, while I am in the mood for sorting and filing away properly! Half of them are all still stored in boxes in a mess - oh, they are carefully hidden under my table beside my bed with a pretty tablecloth over the table so no one knows they are there.... no one except me!
Packed up in boxes... my photos, my life, my "special things", and at times my emotions...
Sunday morning dawned and it was time to begin packing. Just as we gathered our clothes and stuff and began to put them in our suitcase early that morning, I also began to pack up my feelings.... all that had happened and that I felt during this whole crisis situation, unceremoniously dumped into boxes... ready to be hidden under a pretty tablecloth. Maybe one day, I would get around to sorting them out...
But that morning, I checked my e-mail. Four comments from my blog and two letters from friends. One was from a friend who knows what is going on, who has known me for years... Reading through her letter, tears began to fall. It was as if she had reached right through the computer and gave me a hug and held me.
To be seen. Likely one of the most beautiful of words. To be seen. Not to be invisible. To have someone say, "I am ready to listen. I see you." The words she used - "I know you and your husband must have taken a battering." I smiled - someone had given my feelings words, validating me, what I went through. Words I could see, visualize, hold on to, describe with... A battering. Yes, that is it!
Six letters that brought a smile to my face and began to warm me up from the paralyzing cold of silence.
And one letter - and answer to the one I had written yesterday. To be honest, I had really expected a "oops! I didn't think about the time and what your days had been like. I'm sorry." Then we would have gone on in the relationship... would have just been a reminder to check your time zones and to allow family time. But it wasn't. It was a letter that was really offended - "What did I do wrong? There was absolutely nothing wrong with what I did!" Wrong? maybe not - debatable... Insensitive? yes, definitely! The letter shocked me. Stunned me. Not at all the response I expected. Not even close.
But a six to one ratio is pretty good, and I went to church feeling loved and cared for for the first time in many days. Feeling bewildered by the one response... angry - again our "use" is valued much more than our "being" by this person. But generally happy... so loved especially by this one who wrote in!
Church was great. Thinking back to a week before when I stood with my kids and sang thinking we might never see their daddy and now I sat between these two. Couldn't sing today since it was in a language that I don't know well enough to sing - but I do know well enough to know what is being sung. So we stood and smiled. Happy to be together. To look to either side of me and shake my head in the sheer wonder of all that went on since last week.
I tried to follow the sermon, but got tired. My mind really wasn't in it, so I began to write. The anger from the one letter that morning came in my mind. I turned the situation over and over in my mind. It was so not right. On many fronts it was so not right. Why was it not a simple thing for this person to understand that it was insensitive to insist on phoning (again!) at almost midnight our first night together? A simple, "I'm sorry. I didn't think about what you needed right then." would have been all that was needed to fix it. I wrinkled my forehead in total confusion - why was he so adamant about defending that? It rubbed the hurt in. It was not enough to do it - but to insist it was right was baffling!
But, in the end, it comes back to the basics. God loves this man - even with his faults. Just like He loves me even with mine. I picked up my journal and began to write:
I'm upset, hurt, angry. This man's insensitivity to common decency hurts me.
But in the middle of all that, there is an ache. Besides living my life as one of many of God's children, I live my life in front of God. He is not pleased when His children fight. Even though I have valid case, even though he did wrong, even though he is so blind that he ain't got a clue what he did, what he stole from me.... I still live my life in front of God. God still calls to me, "Child?"
"Child, you know I love him."
I know, but he hurt me! He hurt me when I was hurt. He stole from me what can not be given back, a precious thing and broke it.
And it hurts!
"I know. But I love him."
But I don't want to!"
Gently, but firmly, "He is mine, and I love him."
My hear roars within me, "No! Don't make me do this!" But God sits quietly. Waiting.
Then, quieter, "Ah, God, no. Please don't ask this, not now. You see what he did. Don't ask me. Heal my heart first; I'm hurting. I need You." But God sits quietly waiting.
I want to cry, to settle down and cry at what God asks of me. Even harder to give forgiveness where it is not asked, where even there is no awareness of wrongdoing. But God sits quietly. We've walked this path before, and He knows I know the way.
So I have a choice. As a crying child of a Father with a foolish and ignorant sibling who has no idea of the value of what he broke, I sob and throw myself on my Father knowing that He knows how precious it was to me. And he destroyed it, and he doesn't care one bit! Ah, God, if only he knew and cared a little about what he did, it would make the forgiveness more easy. I want to be able to stand and give a victim impact statement. But God sits quietly.
So I chose to turn my eyes up. No choice because I value my Father's approval most. The gaping hole still raw, but I turn my eyes up. Ok, ok, I will chose.
(It will be a choice, not a feeling, but a choice of will... forgiveness often is.)
So I chose to forgive him for his stupid and careless act of stealing that evening, of ruining the peace and joy. I chose to do this knowing full well that he doesn't know or care about what he has done, feels no remorse or compassion at all. Choosing to forgive does not mean that I have surrendered my rights to set limits or to lodge a complaint aimed at correction of behavior. These I will still do! But I chose to forgive - to put down the right to demand payment and hold grudges. Choosing to accept that God loves him as He loves me, despite his faults. It is not an acceptance of those faults, but a setting down of my anger for an unjust offense and choosing to accept that God loves him.
I am a mother of a few children. I often am the one to sit and try to negotiate conflicts - hearing the pain, hearing the protests, working towards a solution. I often try to look at situations from the point of view as God being the Father of us all. We are siblings, brothers and sisters... Sometimes when my children are really offended and can't calm down their anger, after I listen to their pain, I ask them, "Well, he did do something wrong, and I understand that you are hurt. What do you think we should do to him because he hurt you? Should we kill him?" Their eyes widen and often they giggle, and they exclaim, "no!". So I smile and say, "Then your other option is to forgive them." There is no in-between. It is either hate which kills or love which forgives and chooses to love and give grace. Put that way, so far, my kids have always opted to forgive! I don't see myself as having any other option, either.
But then I turn to the offender privately, away from the offended, and talk about what they did. Time for correction, for seeing what effect his actions had on his brother. Time for correction and repentance. Why do I rarely do that in front of the offended? It isn't helpful, and it often feeds the anger of the offended. In the same way, I need to let God, the Father, do His correcting of His son privately. I need to trust that He will do it.
Forgiveness - involves both a setting down of the right to hold anger and the relinquishing the correction needed into the hands of One who is much more capable of it than I am. It is not that I am not worth standing up for. It is that there is someone much more capable of doing that than I am. Handing over the offense into His hands. This means learning to trust that He will - a struggle for some of us.
So, with that settled, the day was brighter. I had got through the crisis by knowing what to carry and what to delegate - this was something to delegate to God! But that afternoon, I responded to the letter with an apology for my tone in the first one. I said that while I still stand by what I said, I apologize for how I said it. I should have been gentler. He was also under stress, and I did not make allowance for that. He was close to my husband also, and this event must have also been hard for him, so I should have been gentle and remembered he was under stress, too. I never heard back from him after that letter.
I reread the good letters, and wrote a letter back to my friend. Just having her there made me feel less alone, less invisible.
But the day was a day for packing. We packed up our suitcases, and I packed up my emotions - as unsorted, unspoken, and unfelt as they were, and shut the lid on their box. It was time to go see family.
So we did. We met the family at a relative's and spent the day eating, laughing, dancing, and listening to music. With my emotions mostly packed up, I did well. I smiled, talked, smiled some more, respected my elders appropriately, negotiated the rocky ground of a large family get-together well. Pleasing everyone.
The problem is that I am not so good at packing up my emotions as I used to be. And they rumbled and strained at the lid of their box, making their presence known. When it was too much, I would sneak away briefly from the crowd... needing the facilities, needing some fresh air because it was too hot, wanting to help with dishes... all these are good excuses for a few minutes of quietness.