Saturday, April 13, 2013

Christ Bearers

For at least a year now I have been blessed with an acute awareness of my petty, resentful sins. I keep asking for forgiveness and offering it to anyone whose actions provoke my anger. I attempt to accept the circumstances that grate at my sense of justice or what I think of as simple courtesy. Nevertheless, the irritation keeps rising up in me.

I feel that God is asking me to let it be, to experience my powerlessness, to continue on my way without the resolution for which I pray. Thankfully, I can hold the resentment without dumping it onto others, but the holding of it, the experience of being filled up with bitterness is extremely distasteful. I'm beginning to wonder if it might feel better to be punished than forgiven.

I do feel forgiven by God and I am grateful for the grace that enables me to hold rather then express an anger that would change nothing and be hurtful to those upon whom I sometimes wish to unload. I feel that God has me in a deep process that requires continual confrontation of the parts of myself that need to be exposed and seen for what they are.

What are these sinful, immature, unfinished parts of my personality? And what is to be done with them? My sense is that God wants to reintegrate them, that he dreams of wholeness for me. But there is some kind of sorting out or reorganization that needs to take place, along with pruning, perhaps. One thing is clear, I alone can not accomplish this reformation.

I was surprised to find myself thinking that it might feel better to be punished than forgiven. Being punished has a finality about it. Being forgiven doesn't take away the consequence of being a sinner in a world of sinners. This has me thinking that while I do believe that forgiveness is free and that God is truly at peace with me, there is much more cross bearing required of us than I was led to believe. By that I mean the bearing of sin, my own and others. Not being punished for sin, but enduring its consequences.

We are at peace with God but we are still expected to share in Christ's suffering, to bear his cross, to return good for evil. I sometimes imagine that to follow Christ in this world is to become a filter of evil. To take in the anger and ill will that comes out of all the brokenhearted people who can not contain it. Even to welcome it because we are Christ bearers. God put eternity into our hearts. Maybe that means that there is enough space in our souls to bear the expressions of pain that we confront everyday, to hold it so that it can't bounce off the walls and hurt others.

A scene from the movie Gandhi comes to mind. A line of protesters walk up to a gate and one by one they receive blows from heavy wooden sticks wielded by guards who eventually see the awful futility of their violence and quit. The victory is won not by bringing force against force, but a willingness to bear injustice and by so doing reveal it for what it is.

David Norling


Paul T. Corrigan said...

What beautiful and powerful reflections. On one hand, what you have to say here is helpful to me in letting go of certain things that need to be let go. To accept my imperfections with the grace that God accepts them. On the other hand, I am challenged to accept the imperfections of others as well.

Anna Cotton said...

David, it seems to me that because of our contemplative practice we have a deep awareness of imperfect responses in ourselves and others. We also have a practical way to absorb pain, sit with it, and then let it go. This, I think, is the filtering part you spoke of. Somewhere in the middle of it all is the mystery of God's presence and action enabling us to be part of the answer instead of the problem. The example you gave using a scene from the movie Gandhi is a particularly effective one. Thanks for such a thought-provoking reflection. Blessings, Anna

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