Forgiveness as a spiritual exercise; day 29 of Ramadan

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To err is human; to forgive, divine.” – Alexander Pope
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” – Matthew 6:12

Truth to be told, I am able to forgive others easier for big offenses than small / petty offenses. Today was no exception, and while I won’t get into it, when the offense was committed I was pissed off…and for several hours afterwards I spent time ruminating on what was done and I was nowhere in a better state of mind.

The quote,“In fact, not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die” (Anne Lamott) came to mind when I was in the throes of self misery. It didn’t set me free, but it did aid in the slow and arduous task of pushing the toxic lack of forgiveness out of my system. It was no easy feat, but after some time spent in prayer and also napping I was able to free myself and forgive the other, but also the ability to forgive myself.

I am human (surprising insight, eh?) and subsequently I act in human ways and sometimes the worse part of me comes to light; I hold grudges, I don’t forgive, I cut people down verbally and sometimes I passively cut them down in my head…among other things. But despite being all things at sometime or another, I remember that I am human, and that it is part of the human experience to screw up time and time again. And yet as we struggle through our humanity, we are at times compelled to do more and do better next time around; sure, some of us are quick to toss in the towel to make changes in our lives, but theoretically we might be in a better place for having done so instead of simply letting the chips fall where they may.

Within the forgiveness of others we are able to find some forgiveness for ourselves for what was done and how for a brief eon in time we forgot our humanity and divinity in others inasmuch we forgot the humanity and divinity within us. I think that’s why it’s good to forgive others inasmuch as well as ourselves, because if we don’t do the latter there’s a possible possibility that we hold onto something that is better off letting go.
So free others, forgive, free yourself, forgive!

So with all that being said, forgiveness was my keyword on the 29th day of Ramadan. Thanks be to God, The Great Forgiver, who forgives us. May we learn to forgive others and forgive ourselves when the occasion call for it, and may we learn from what we’ve done to make better choices to, if at all possible, not commit those offenses again.

Salaam alaikum be yours now and always,
Nathanael

Freedom as a spiritual exercise; day 17 of Ramadan

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Today in the United States of America we our celebrating our independence day. Our freedom was won in becoming our own nation over England, we wanted to be free and so we did that by putting together our model of government and fighting a war against the British. In the end, we became a country!

Freedom isn’t free, it is a costly process but it is worth it through and through. Freedom is also a symbiotic relationship; by giving it to someone else the tension that was there, the hard times and heartache is lessened to a large extent to the receiver but also to the giver.
I am reminded of Desmond Tutu’s work in South Africa after Apartheid by way of the Truth And Reconciliation Commission:

Knowing that it can be done on such a large scale makes it all that more “easier” to do. I say easier loosely because rape occurs in the world, police brutality occurs, families fight over significant and mundane things, and forgiving is hard and perhaps healing is even harder.
As a follower of Christ I am reminded of two Bible verses pertaining to forgiveness:
Matthew 5:44 – “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Matthew 18:21-22 -21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

It’s why I think the words and actions of Jesus are so revolutionary in today’s world as they were in his day and age because it shifts paradigms, it breaks down walls, it takes the way we do things and says ‘we can do better than what we once could do’. Instead of letting the anger and frustration and pain become an unending cycle of violence, choosing to forgive takes the anger and frustration and pain we have and removes it from the equation.
Now when it comes to forgetting offenses past and present I think that’s a delicate subject in and of itself. Because I think that it’s nearly impossible to do, however it is possible to learn from those experiences and say I never want to do that again / I never want to do that again to others. And we grow and hopefully we’re able to go on but I do realize that offenses aren’t the same and it takes different amounts of time and forgiveness to get to a place where the pain we feel is removed from the equation (and some occasions it never leaves)…but it’s worth trying regardless!

So with all that being said, forgiveness is my keyword on this 17th day of Ramadan. Thanks be to God who is quick to forgive us and is slow to anger. May we ourselves also learn to forgive others and learn to forget what others have done so that we don’t have to perpetuate a cycle that only causes pain and suffering in our lives as well as in the lives of others. May we also learn to forgive ourselves when the occasion calls for it as well.

Salaam alaikum be yours now and always,
Nathanael

Making peace with my past

“If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it” ~ Richard Rohr

It hasn’t been too long now that I have made peace with a part of my past.

It hasn’t been that long that out of anxiety, out of not wanting to get past it, not wanting to move forward in my life that I still dreamt and dwelt upon a future that’s never going to happen. A future with my ex-fiancee (she has a name, I address her as such in prayer, but only there I speak her name out loud) and her sons.

My pastor Scott has shared with me some of his story, and how some things he had issues with had come to a resolution to a point where he pronounced peace and blessing over that closed chapter in his life. Now I hold on to a lot; I could say some of it stems from seeing parents who don’t resolve much, and if anything the enmity between them have made a rift ever-widening. Seeing and hearing a mother who is good at forgiving but not forgetting to the point where areas of contention past are brought to light in the form of verbal ammo. I grew up hearing 1 Peter 4:8 when it says that “love covers over a multitude of sins” but I have never seen it lived out in my family life.

So with that sociological tale of woe in my life, what was I to expect when it came to holding down a healthy relationship (at that time, nowadays I have a better idea, thanks to healthy people in healthier relationships)? Love is a verb, it needs to be acted on daily and even secondly, but I in my younger years knew how to love…but then I switched on cruise control and moved forward but with no work on my part. I failed at loving my best friend, and I paid for it by our relationship ending.

I probably have pinned more blame on her for it coming to an end. It sometimes can seem like the one calling it quits is the one to blame, I mean c’mon, if you’re willing to get out and not fight for love’s sake then you sir/ma’am are the loser…perhaps I had this kind of mentality at one time, but it didn’t make it any easier.

I didn’t rebound after that relationship into another relationship for nearly 3 to 6 months later. It wasn’t healthy and it was over quickly. I was in another relationship since that relationship, and it was none the more healthier; when you get wrapped up in dopamine and oxytocin, sometimes it is what it is, and for me that doesn’t equate to stability and the bedrock of a good relationship. In the moment it feels good (it really should) but it doesn’t feel right, at least, not to me.

So with 3 relationships failed in my life’s rear view mirror, some kind of resolution needed to take place; either I could squirrel away my emotions and what I feel and what I think and stay there, or I could shake off my emotional baggage, forgive myself and forgive my ex-fiancee and get here. I chose the latter, and let me tell you, it is freeing! 🙂

Unless you’ve gotten to this point in your life having gone through a similar if not the same experience, freedom doesn’t seem attainable. Your mind wanders, you remember and reminisce healthier moments in a particular relationship and dwell there. But if you’re dwelling there you are not in the present, you are not here, and it sucks to be caught in flux like that because I think at times people want to be both there and here but you really can’t, you’re a whole person in either environment but you can’t be healthily divided in both.

Here I am, broken and healing man, typing away to the tunes of Steely Dan whilst drinking some black Columbian coffee and eating some pumpkin bread. That’s one thing I have been doing to get here, exercises of mindfulness per what I am learning in DBT. Here I am broken and healing man who is able to pronounce blessing on this part of my story, here I sit smiling at making peace with my past. It needed to be done, I am glad that time is now.

~Nathanael~

Jesus in the movies; The Passion of The Christ and why it still bothers me (and why I am glad it does)

The other day in the Adult Sunday School/Bible Study I am a part of at church, we were going through the passages discussing Jesus’ suffering prior to his crucifixion. As we got more into the verses, the instructor played for us the scourging scene from Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ.

As we watched the clip, I watched as well but I also watched the reactions of the people around me; some looked stunned, some look horrified and some even wept. I watched, but the gut wrenching feeling that I get when I watch this moviewas still there.

When The Passion of The Christ was still in theaters I watched it 3 times, and since it’s been out I have watched it an additional 3 times and yet every single time, Every. Single. Time, the movie still leaves me with pain on the inside to see the words of the Prophet Isaiah being acted out in front of me;by his stripes/wounds we are healed -Isaiah 53:5.

As I watched it I took to identifying with the Roman soldiers who took to beating and ripping out and apart Jesus’ flesh, for as I watched it I recognize that I too am guilty, I too am responsible for Jesus’ death, I too am part of the reason why he went to the cross to die…
But the story doesn’t end there, because it would be your typical execution in that day and age if Jesus simply died, but what made it atypical is that Jesus didn’t die, period, he died but 3 days later he rose again, He. Rose. Again!

Jesus’ death and resurrection was for the sins of humanity, for everyone, that whomever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life – John 3:16.

I am glad the movie still affects me in a deep and troubling way, because I feel that it helps me to provide me with a visual of just how suffering Jesus went through and through his death and resurrection. Because it is in this selfless act of Agape (God’s unconditional love) love I can go through my own physical death and spiritual resurrection, that I am able to die to myself and live unto him on a day-to-day basis, for this is the reason to live, for this is how I am able to follow Christ and make him known to those around me, it is how I can extend the grace that I have received to others, it is how I can follow out The Great Commission,  it is how I can live a life of love, it is how I am able to serve God by serving others.

~Nathanael~