Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Year of Mercy: Healing: Day 3 of Mission

The Lord’s mercy heals those areas of our lives that paralyze and debilitate us. Sometimes we carry our chaos silently our entire lives and we know we will go to the grave with it because we are too ashamed to share our biggest pains with those who are closest to us. Advent is a time of darkness and we feel the immensity of our chaos and we know we are powerless to deal with what ails us. It makes our dark day feel bleak and only a Savior can touch those hidden areas to bring them to the light. Let us begin our journey to the light. Let us begin the journey in which Christ will restore us to our true selves.

Life has a way of beating us down and chipping away the joy we once had. Grief and losses, hard lessons learned, sins we have done to others or sins that have been done to us, have a way of diverting us from the pursuit of childlike joy. Our hopes and loves are no longer innocent but are borne our of suffering and longing. We may fondly remember the love of a God we had in our youth, however now we return to the relationship a little more sobered and wizened. We know we cannot repossess lost innocence or un-speak regrettable words, but we have the opportunity to begin anew – with a mature, prudent understanding of who we are and what we want.

It is right for us to expectantly gaze upon Jesus as he views our suffering. We learn that he does not want us to suffer at all, but with him we may have to look deep into our suffering, painful as it may be, so we can see the abundant compassion that he wants us to receive. His love combines with our suffering like twins. Love and suffering are twins. Jesus, out of great compassion, restores us to life and back to family and friends because he cannot bear to see us suffer.

Suffering isolates - from others, from ourselves. Many of us become silent or withdrawn and we seldom let another person know what we are experiencing. It may hurt so much that it comes out as anger, which is useful for keeping others at bay. We hold onto hurtful memories because they contain a piece of truth. We protect it because it is all we have, and there is a piece of truth in it. Inside our head we are replaying the same story again and again because something needs to be expressed, but we pull back and find ourselves alone in our anger, hurt, and suffering. In our memories, we relive our fears, nourish our perspectives, solidify our position, and find meaning in our stories - even though we are destined to act out of our unmet needs. We examine our memories on our own and tell our stories over and over - without any apparent change to the outcome. We, who suffer, need to be seen, heard, and honored. We need to speak our voice so we can stake a claim on our identity in the world. We react against suffering that holds a firm grip over us. God stands there and beckons, “Where are you?” We retreat because it is too painful to tell the story again because we think there is no apparent positive outcome. What we want most from God is to stand before him as we cry out, “See me, Feel me, Heal me, Know what I am feeling! I’m feeling miserable. I’m despairing and I want hope.”

I think of the Harry Potter movie scenes when the headmaster Dumbledore teaches Harry to learn the perspective of another person. Dumbledore shows Harry a magical bowl of water in which he is to let a teardrop of sorrow fall into the pensieve. The teardrop is taken from one who is dying. This tear contains the person's most cherished memories. Memories are dangerous business. When persons plunge themselves into this magical bowl of water, they can review this memory from another's set of experiences. When Harry Potter does this, his understanding of the world changes. Throughout his high school life, Harry experiences Severus Snape, the potions teacher, as a bully, his adversary, his nemesis. Snape never appears to be kind to Harry and has a cold sarcasm to most students. Harry builds his world around the antagonism this man has for him. Though Snape is multi-layered, Harry can only see the hard-line character. In Harry’s world, these two can never reconcile because Harry's negative experiences of Snape are real. Harry has felt the awful things Snape has said to him. Nothing will ever change Harry's view of him. Nothing. Harry is powerless against a wizarding man who holds so much power. The relationship is one of chaos.

At the end of the series, the dying Snape beckons the maturing Harry Potter to take a droplet of his tears. Harry immediately goes to the pensieve and observes Snape's lifetime memories. Harry's world is blown apart. Harry can see Snape’s true self and his behind-the-scenes actions that Harry could not glimpse earlier. He comes to a fuller comprehension of Snape's actions. Harry can now see Snape was always actively protecting him. Snape cares for Harry's mother and has deep affection for her son and has pledged his loyalty to protect him. Through those memories, Harry sees that Snape acted admirably and was committed to protecting Harry and his schoolmates. He even gave his life so he and his classmates can have life. Because Harry looks at another's memory, sees something so different from his own, he gains a clearer understanding to the events he incompletely perceived - and he walks away as an enriched man. The lesson in all of this: our memories, though we trust them, are incomplete and need another perspective.

Though we will resist, it is time for us to look again at our memories of pain and sorrow. We don't want to touch the stinging pain, but when we enter deep into those memories with Jesus, we have a chance to gain his perspective. He is somewhere in the picture that we could not previously see. His perspective can shatter our illusions and help us gain needed understanding to return to our true selves. Once Harry was unable to see Snape's caring interventions; perhaps we too cannot see Christ's abiding presence and constant solidarity with us. But he is there, and he does have a different perspective he wants us to see. He wants to give us a new insight, which is the reason these memories continue to persist. This is the reason he keeps bringing up these memories – with all its pain. They are not distractions but the real content of prayer.He wants to help us reconcile them and to gain a new insight that will resolve and transform our pain into light and joy. The secret though is: We cannot examine these alone, but we have to bring Christ into the memory pensieve with us. This can be the most healing thing we do - if we agree to go through the pain once more.

Suffering isolates, but compassion borne of Christ’s mercy reconnects us. We all want to belong. We all want to know our place. The woman bent over for eighteen long years is joyful because now she can be seen as a full member of society where her life will have greater meaning. Let us rejoin our society by bringing our true selves forward. Come meet Jesus in the depths of your memories. He keeps calling you there. He will be very gentle with you – because he cares for you. He will not let you get hurt again. All your life he has been calling for you to do this. Notice his tenderness. Notice his inviting body language, soft tone of voice, gentle smile and caring facial expressions, his subtle gestures. Be open to noticing the small movements he makes. He wants to heal you and restore you in radical intimacy. He wants you in his arms to console you. He wants you. Tonight, he is reaching our his hand to heal you. For the sake of your soul, take it.