This month marks a year since a significant wounding experience happened to me and my family.
Actually, last August was the beginning of the experience, which culminated in November. I have still been working on deeper stages of forgiveness lately for those who have wounded me and are unrepentant or indifferent to my pain. And, it has been quite a process that is not quite finished yet, as these things take time when we don’t have the ‘other side’ apologizing. For me, when someone apologizes or reconciles with me, my forgiveness can be almost instantaneous, and oftentimes, I have difficulty even remembering the wrongs, or at least the details of the wrongs. It’s like the offense disappears, and we all move ahead, many times with even deeper love and closer friendships than before.
But what about when ‘the other side’ has no interest in apologizing, or believes you are the one who is ‘wrong’, or holds a grudge against you fueled by the ‘pride of being right’? What about when they left you in a ditch broken and bleeding and skipped along without a care in the world, with no concern or even memory of you, like a hit and run? And what about when you must still hear their names in your community or drive by their homes or act charitably by not slandering them to other people and telling of their deeds, while they continue their facade? What about if their problem isn’t even about them personally, but their loyalty lies so fiercely to a particular type of worship, that they don’t follow the command: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” (Matthew 5: 23-24)… and they feel justified in their ‘non-reconciliation’ because in their hearts, they believe you are not good enough, or not worthy enough, or not in agreement enough with them to be welcome at their table?
What if their behavior caused you to question everything, even faith that you had since you can remember?
My friends, I experienced the above… and I cannot thank God enough for this experience, because while it is a scary turmoil to begin to question everything, it is also the best thing that can happen to you… Questioning everything has caused me to grow in leaps and bounds, painfully, but in truth and no longer with the laziness of being spoonfed within a bubble… and most of all, I have grown in compassion and understanding.
I understand now…
I understand why you may have difficulty believing in a loving God (although I assure you He exists)… I understand how the Church may now look to you like a bunch of hypocrites who are, dare I say, WORSE than pagans in how they live out their life. I understand now why you may be turned off to the Catholic Church if you were part of it, and someone very close to you who was either clergy or a family member or a friend betrayed you. I get it now. Betrayal is probably worse than physical torture… especially when the betrayers never want to see your face again, or shoo’s their children aways from yours at public social events. That happened to us recently at the Walk for Life. Thankfully, I was off somewhere and didn’t see it… but my children were devastated. Thankful indeed, or I could easily see myself walking up to that person and saying in her face “REALLY?!”… in Latin.
Yeah, I’m just human. I’m a work in progress. But God has used my pain and experience to shine a big bright light on all the ways I myself have judged.
I am so so sorry…
I ask you forgiveness, first of all, to my family. My beloved family. I have been judge and jury and psychologist, diagnosing you and judging you and analysing you. I thought as parents you should have been better examples of true Catholics. I shudder to say that… Here you were, without all the luxuries my generation has, no cell phones, no internet, no fancy counseling or parenting classes, no fancy theology or a special edge in society… providing and giving us all you had to the best of your ability… with simply: Raw love. I have sobbed over how I have judged, wrongly, about your ‘defects’ as if I even have a clue. With all my heart, I beg you for forgiveness, and I thank you for still loving me no matter what.
To those who have ‘left the Church’… I beg for your forgiveness. There I was, thinking that you should see things as I saw them, wondering how on earth you could leave this bubble, this boat, which sails on stormy seas. I judged that you were supposed to check all the ‘right’ boxes, and if you didn’t, you were indeed lost. Maybe you are. Maybe you aren’t. Either way, you are on the journey that you have chosen with your God-given free-will, or that God Himself lead you on, and in the case of my loved ones, I have seen some of you witness to more truth and love than many who have ‘checked all the right boxes.’ You have also loved me, despite all my failings and flaws and hypocrisies. I beg for your forgiveness, especially my family members, for how wrong I have been about you, and how wrong I have been in general for judging your heart. And I thank you, too, for still sticking by me in my youthful ignorance. (Alright, alright, I am getting older now so I am not sure I can claim the youthful thing anymore ;))
I ask forgiveness to those I have accused of being ‘too liberal’ in the way that they worship or preach. (By ‘liberal’, I do not mean unorthodox in teaching truth… I mean things I thought were liberal but had nothing to do with truth.) I have judged a kind clergy member of being too ‘all about loving your neighbor’ and not hardcore enough as in ‘let’s all go die for our faith and march through the streets with incense and statues.’ Truth be told, I like marching through the streets, standing for my convictions (as far as my faith and the sanctity of life), and I love incense, both the church kind and the kind I used to light when I was much younger for different reasons than prayer. But when this clergy member shared with me the deep pain he has endured through fellow brothers betraying him, I realized that I was just as guilty. It just so turns out that this particular clergy member was one of the significant people who God chose to comfort me during my time of betrayal. God does have a sense of humor… but also a gentle way of correcting us. I had been so wrong about him, judging him from my balcony of ‘how things should be.’
Newsflash: We are ALL the Body of Christ. Division comes from satan. If you think your little parish is better or more redeemed than anyone else’s, guess again. I was amused at how the Amish (a group we are reading about right now out of curiosity as far as simplicity) divide over gray buggies and black buggies. Latin or English, folks? Veils or no veils? Guitar or organ? Hmmmmm….. Sure, I have my preferences, but I think there is only one question worth asking: “How is my HEART in loving God and my neighbor?” I believe that if we get THIS question answered, we will knock it off with all the criticism of someone’s gray buggie or outdated music and these things will be naturally corrected to Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. When we are loving God and our neighbor, we will want to give Him, and our neighbor, our BEST.
But I digress…
I apologize to those I have judged who have a different faith perspective than me, to those who feel unloved and are codependent on others, to those whose marriages I have judged for a myriad of reasons, to those who have addictions to drugs and food, to those who are unmotivated poor and those who are uncaringly rich, to those mothers who have had abortions because they didn’t know what else to do, to those who stop at two kids and to those who stop at 20, to those who are gay (I’ll have you know that my hubby and I would never have gone on our first date if a gay person hadn’t set us up, a celebate gay person from a Catholic community), to those who are atheist, to those who are ineffective leaders, to those who have mental illnesses that persist, to those who have felt no option but to become sterilized, to those who have felt that life cheated them and are tempted with despair…
I am guilty of some of the above situations. I am in no way condoning any of the above behavior that is bad for ourselves and the rest of humanity, (God’s Law is GOOD for us)… I believe it is biblical and within our rights to judge that an action is bad or wrong (such as murder or theft is bad)… but we can never judge the heart.
And besides, WHO AM I????
What I have found is that each and every time I have judged someone’s heart, I have later found out that I had wrongly judged. Perhaps that’s why God tells us “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven…” (Luke 6:37).
…Which brings me to my most difficult request for forgiveness. I ask for your forgiveness, those of you who wounded me and my family in the name of God and in the name of faith. You could not have known the damage you caused, especially those in a leadership position and those whom I shared my heart and soul with. Or maybe you do know, and don’t care. That is the hardest for me to forgive: that you may…truly… be… indifferent to me. But, I forgive you. Not of my own power or even ability, but because Christ forgives you through me, and because He told me to so that I may enjoy forgiveness for all of MY wrongs. You may believe you are so right that you are untouchable. That’s what I thought about myself. Turns out, I have been wrong. Each day I thank God that He left my faith in Him intact. You are not untouchable, and God will never cease trying to reach you, in Truth, as long as you desire Him for real.
And with that, I thank you for reading this far. As (Saint) Mother Teresa said, “In the end, it was never between you and them anyway…” In the end, we must all face God and give an account of how we personally have followed His command to love Him above all things and our neighbor as ourselves.
Turns out, the plank in my eye was larger than I thought 😉
Love and blessings,