Sunday, July 14, 2013

Too Baffeling for Words

I'm at one of those points where I feel an ocean of words that want to come out . . . but my time to type is limited to a thimble's measure.

I just came from a memorial service for the young girl I mentioned a few weeks ago.  Too many feelings to express. I see her mom, several rows in front of me, doing the horrible dance of her terminal neurological disease. I see her brother across the aisle in a numb despair (me imposing my intuitive feelings upon him . . . and they my be accurate . . . or maybe not).  I feel the trough of the fall, the pain of being human it is total rawity.

It is such a mixture of emotions as I sat in the sanctuary of my old church, the first time in over two years.  I felt the choking of social anxiety.  I feel hated towards me there but had to remind my selfish self that none of this was about me. I left as soon as the service was over and am waiting over coffee and a computer for my wife, who stayed behind.

But I focus on those whose grief is beyond measure and I want to, willingly, splatter their pain all over me as a kind of baptism of empathy. I, of course, cannot imagine what it is like to loose a child or a sister because I never have. But I can allow my imagination to take me in that direction in the same way climbing a mountain, as I did yesterday, was moving me in the same direction as the sun.  I do this because if I suffered such loss, and the memorial room was filled with people, that is what I would request of them.  Not the cliches of "God doesn't make mistakes" but I want to see a tear that tells me that they at least want to understand my pain.  That is what would satisfy me.

I will have to stop with that thought before I even begin.  I will add that I sensed a strange awkwardness in this memorial that was beyond my own, personal one.  Evangelicalism seems to loose its voice like a opera singer with laryngitis at such convoluted morality that is involved with this tragic story.  I think how much better the memorials in the high church, where a few verses are read, a burning of candles, a ritual of grief and submission to God without any mortal trying to "make sense of it all" or to say the right thing.

Speaking of high church . . . moving on to a much less difficult topic . . . my church is again exceeding my expectations for a Sunday school program. We are studying Shakespeare for a few weeks.  I never imagined that I would be dissecting the prose of Hamlet in a Sunday school class . . . but it is a wonderful way to spend an hour.  My wife came with me today to my church.  There is no hope that she would ever join me there and I respect her decision to stay with her friends at the other church.

Our pastor spoke on forgiveness+reconciliation.  I did some soul searching. I know that when I'm hurt I can hold a grudge.  I think of this old church situation.  While I know that I reached out to the old pastor and he never did me, is that enough?  I have forgiven him . . . I think. But I don't believe in magic forgiveness anymore. I use to think, as an evangelical, that someone could rape and kill my family and then I could "forgive them" and never feel a negative emotion towards them again. But real forgiveness is more messy.  The boundaries of the emotions are not well defined, between the real and normal . . . and the pathological. But I had to ask myself, have I done enough?

My wife believes that if I really forgave her pastor, I would return to his church and feel no emotions when I see him.  I ironically came out of the bathroom at the hospital this week and ran right smack into him.  I shook his hand and we talked about family as we walked in the same direction. So is that reconciliation?  I don't know, but I must go.



Anonymous said...

I had a 2-day class on Forgiveness at a local university a few years ago (not a Christian context - Psych. department). Instructor said that you know you've forgiven someone when that person can "stroll though your brain" without you being upset. I think that's as good a definition as any. I don't think that's the same as "feel no emotions" whatsoever.

I don't think reconciliation means "go back to things the way they used to be." It sounds that in your encounter, you were not holding any animosity toward your old pastor, and that you hope/d for his good.

You conscience will tell you if you've "done enough." It wouldn't hurt to ask someone you trust about this (other than your wife). There might be something left to do from your side, but again, that doesn't mean gong back to the way things were. You've changed.

When I left Evangelicalism, I didn't have a blow-up with my pastor, but in every discussion with him I always felt worse at the end than when I went in... And the roof on my theological "house" was getting blown off. There was nothing on my side for which I had to apologize to him, but someone I trusted advised me to write a note thanking him for things I could in honesty appreciate about him and his ministry. I did this, and I felt it closed the matter. (It was a short note...) I'm not saying you should do the same, just that getting some input from a mature, trusted person - even someone like a spiritual director - could help you clarify.


j. Michael Jones said...

I'm sorry to side this with my old stuff as the focus was to be on the suffering before me.

Those are good thought. Oddly, my whole situation with my old pastor started when I wrote a letter to him and the entire church were I listed his positive attributes. I had to study for a few days to think of what those were. The letter, was very positive and nothing but praise for the pastor. But then I added that, despite that, I was going to start attending another church down the road because it seemed to be a better fit for me . . . but I would be back often to visit my friends at his church.

This was what unleashed his rage at me. I felt that I had been verbally raped by his confrontation and he tore up the letter so no one else in the church could see it. They assumed that I . . . I am being paged and must go.