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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Must I Be Sorry Forever?

I started this post in February (that’s going to be a theme for awhile, as I process through the bits and pieces I’ve scribbled over the past few months).  Part of what I was thinking was posted here.  I revisited it, this morning…

Every story has at least two sides.  Most stories have more, and if you were to line them up neatly, they would still be messy, because they would all be different.  I’m not sure it means someone is necessarily lying.  Perspective is rough.

I introspectively rehashed some difficult stuff over Holy Week, because it was as good a time as any.  For years now, I have been transfixed by Judas’ story.  I have been concerned with how little he was willing to profit, with how obvious it should have been that he expected to either be rescued or dead, and with how apathetic and unforgiving his people were.  I really don’t want to end up like Judas.
But I also don’t want to be sorry forever. 

Can you imagine what it might have looked like had Judas lived?  How the resurrection accounts might have been different?  Peter denies Jesus and gets reinstated.  What might have happened to Judas, who proclaimed exactly who Jesus was?  Would the other disciples have accepted his reinstatement, as well?  I’m going to guess the answer to that is no—at least not without a fight.  After all, Peter’s denial was relatively private (did the others even know?) whereas Judas’ confession was public.  It’s harder to forgive the crap that happens right out in the open… at least sometimes…

I’m pretty sure I have digressed… which seems par for the course today, because the daily office had my mind running all over the place.

I Thessalonians 5:11 caught my attention, to be sure:

“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing” (NRSV).

My first thought upon reading this, today, was, “How am I doing this?”

I meant it literally and was immediately met with some figurative, cartoon-like reminders that sometimes we just do things without employing a lot of logic.  It’s like when an animated character jumps across a great chasm and stops midair, looks down, and says, “How am I doing this?” and legitimately doesn’t know, because it is impossible.  This seemed like a rabbit trail to me, but then I read on.

Matthew 6:7-15 was next.  I would not like to confess, but I am going to do so, that I thought about skimming it.  These are words I have memorized.  These are words I say every week and often lead others to say.  I read them anyway:

“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (NRSV).

Do we really do this?  Do I really do this?  How am I doing this?  And, how am I doing this?

If I’m honest, sometimes I feel as if I am both confessing into and forgiving out of a very deep void, peddling my feet over empty space and wondering how it is that I don’t fall.  When I talk about cooperation with God, I often lean toward the necessity of human participation, because I think we are severely lacking, but there are also times when that cooperation means that God is the one working on our behalf… knowing what we need… suspending us in figurative mid-air… Because there are things we cannot do on our own.

Again…  I’m not going to lie… there are also times when I feel as if I’m dashed against the rocks (all the way down the sides and at the bottom of the canyon).  But I don’t think that’s God.  I think that’s people.  And although I feel confident that it is, indeed, my responsibility to confess my sins and right whatever wrong is possible (confession is more than lip service), I also feel confident that I don’t have to continue to be sorry forever and I do have to continue to forgive and take action forever.

There sometimes comes a point in human relationships when we simply have to recognize we have done what we can do, and the ball is no longer in our court.  It’s not about giving up.  It’s about letting go.


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