Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mom's Surprise Visit

I suppose it wasn't as bad as its potential.

She called from a nearby truck stop and asked for directions. My dear spouse, not knowing what else to do, gave her the directions.

In retrospect, the visit was simply to show off her new toy. This time a new vehicle. She wanted attention and affirmation. It's a long-standing pattern I've fathomed just now. It's a pervasive theme, in fact; I'm dumbstruck it's taken me this long to see what was in front of me all along.

In a perverse way, it's soothing to know that because I, as a person, don't exist to her she'll not likely be back until the next time she has some special toy. While it is possible that she'll seek attention for other things, I've learned how not to give encouraging attention.

She's found another dear, sweet family member on whom to attach herself. This lovely lady has physical and emotional abuse in her background, and I worry about her. She's a grown woman, though, and has a husband I highly respect, so hopefully she'll be able to navigate her way through.

I fear a family funeral is in the near future. Several family members aren't doing well. I've not done a lot of thinking about how I'll handle these sad events. I very much want to show appropriate respect and love for my loved ones who die. There is, of course, the great potential that she won't bother to tell me until well the event. If this happens, I'll deal with it as best I can.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Day With No Name

In Louisiana, a woman lies buried beneath a grove of 150-year-old oak trees in the cemetery of an Episcopal church. Only one word is carved on her tombstone: “Waiting.”

Short and sweet. Oh, so sweet.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Clearing Out The Clutter

Paul pointedly asked, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?” (1 Cor. 6:19)—which makes me wonder if God often feels like He is living in our messy garage.

Some years ago, a charity touched my heart and I felt led to donate to it. The problem was, there was no extra money in the budget. Inspired by the homeless people I'd seen scouring the trash cans for pop bottles to return for the ten cent deposit, I decided to scour our garage.

I found a goodly amount in the recycle can, but I knew there had to be more. Indeed there were. I searched every inch of the garage, crawling into icky spider-web ridden corners, moved snow blowers, stretched my arms to their limits behind boxes of assorted junk and generally worked hard to retrieve every can I could find. The result wasn't some huge sum of money. It did, though, give me an appreciation of the people who struggle to live on the money they can find in trash cans.

Lately, I have this feeling that I need to do this same sort of scouring, with respect to my life, when it comes to the negative effects of the past. I need to find those things that are holding me back and do battle with them. I have no illusions that this will be an immediate or short-lived thing, but I'm tired of letting it hold me back.

It's funny, just six months ago, the idea of "getting better" was a scary thought. Now the idea of not being "sick" isn't nearly as scary. I certainly retains some of its scariness, but it's also exciting.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"And Every Virtue We Possess"

Once God has begun the process of sanctification in your life, watch and see how God causes your confidence in your own natural virtues and power to wither away.

I've never heard anyone put this process so very well. Wither away they did and in an awfully painful way. My pride held on much too long, but God was faithful to rid me of what was holding me back even when it meant having to face a harsh reality.

It's taken a long time for me to appreciate the growth that took place those long years ago. The result is wonderful, though I couldn't begin to see even a glimpse of wonder while I was going through it.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Forgiveness Without Repentance?

This is likely a repeat for me, but often I need a reminder. Like many Christians, I've heard countless messages about forgiveness. Some pastors contend that forgiveness is as much for us as it is for the one who wronged us. We feel better if we forgive regardless of what the other person does, and it allows us to go on with our life. Others say that because God forgives us, we must forgive others irrespective of whether the other person is sorry. It took years for me to find a reputable organization that shared my view:

Unconditional forgiveness is canceling a debt to all those who intentionally offend us, whether or not they own up to what they have done. Offering forgiveness without repentance, however, does not follow the biblical model of forgiveness (Luke 17:3,4).

I yelled aloud when I first read this. Someone else *does* get it. God forgives us when we repent -- why would he set an example and then expect us to do something entirely different? The logical answer is (and, for all Christianity's detractors, I contend Christianity is ultimately logical), He doesn't. In the same way God doesn't willy-nilly forgive us our sins, we're not expected to do the same for those who wrong us.

I find this particularly important when considering narcissists. Because a narcissist is never truly sorry they wronged someone, only sorry they were caught, forgiveness doesn't enter the picture. This is why, too, forgiveness *is* conditional on repentance. Repentance doesn't simply mean one verbalizes (or writes) an apology, it means the person agrees that the action was wrong with no qualifications or excuses, decides to rectify whatever they can, and then doesn't do it again.

Once I received a letter from a narcissist that said, roughly, "I've forgiven you for what you've done. Let's see if you can do the same." Beyond the fact that I have no idea what I did, and therefore can't repent of it, the other person doesn't doesn't offer an apology, and in fact, uses the issue of forgiveness to manipulate. When I think I've been too hard on this person, I go back and reread this letter. The letter, a representative example of communications with this person, helps me remember.

Forgiveness is a good thing. Without it, life would be a pointless exercise in physics, chemistry and biology. Forgiveness is also a valuable thing, much too valuable to be thrown around as a freebie. My forgiveness cost Jesus his life. His sacrifice on my behalf should serve as a reminder of just how precious forgiveness is.