GPS for the Soul Week 4
Week 4 Reflection:
We just got a round-about in our neighborhood. My first experience of driving a roundabout was in graduate school in England. A friend invited me to her family home in the countryside outside of London. A roundabout is a traffic circle that offers several different directions to take. My first roundabout experience was comical because I drove around the circle not once, but three times until I finally picked a direction. About three kilometers down the road, I realized I had actually returned the same way I came.
Is our life a constant roundabout choice?
I believe God is regularly asking us to—blaze a new trail. The problem is we find ourselves driving in circles, stopped in place, or worse, going backwards. Lent is a spiritual wake-up call that there is new life to be lived, greener ground to be covered, deeper peace to be found, and most importantly, a loving God to be known. What is keeping you from moving forward?
Jesus knew that no progress could be made if the human heart was tangled in knots. Without a spiritual practice of forgiveness, meaningful living and spiritual growth are impossible. Jesus instructs us to reconcile with our brother or sister before approaching the altar (Mathew 5:23-24). Easier said than done! When a metaphorical poison-tipped arrow pierces through the heart’s armor, it takes near-supernatural powers to heal the invisible wound. The problem is unresolved hurt—festers!!! Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die as the saying goes. When we hold on to anger and resentment, we circle continuously on the round-about. It is physically, mentally, and spiritually impossible to move forward. In my own experience, when I hold on to grievances, I am the loser. Inner peace, creativity, and joy are taken away.
As a pastoral minister, I am faced with many stories of betrayal between humans in relationships. I sometimes wonder if mercy is even justified. We can really hurt each other. Jesus knew well the betrayal and disappointment of family, of friends, and a religious community. Jesus’ own family questioned his spiritual identity and divine mission. His best right-hand Peter denied him not once, but three times. But Jesus also knew trespasses not forgiven, leave souls incapable of receiving grace. The mystic poet David Whyte said, “At the end of life, the wish to be forgiven is ultimately the chief desire of almost every human being. In refusing to wait in extending forgiveness to others now, we begin the long journey of becoming the person who will be large enough, able enough, and generous enough to receive at the very end that absolution ourselves.”
We all fall short. Loving and forgiving will be the greatest struggle of our imperfect lives. I think it’s the reason Jesus talked so much about forgiveness in his ministry. He even used his last breaths on earth to appeal to God for mercy on our behalf.
Jesus imparts practical advice: forgive 70 X 7 times. Not easy! But untangling ourselves from anger, bitterness, and resentment can be done with prayer—and, some supernatural aid. A friend told me, “Deal with it now or deal with it forever.” At some point, we have to want more for our lives than hurt. True forgiveness requires vulnerability, endless prayer, perseverance, and a relentless hope that healing will eventually come.
This week, make some gestures toward reconciliation and watch for what happens.
Week 4 Prayer:
Here is one of my favorite prayers by Thomas Merton.
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.