The Number That I’m Most Afraid Of

Yes.  There is a number I’m afraid of.  You read that right.

Sometimes it just seems like too much.

Sometimes it just seems like too much.

It’s 70 x 7.

490 literally.

But I’m afraid it was symbolic, so it could be any number, infinity, or #asmanytimesasittakes.

None of them an easy pill to swallow.  Or anything I can or really want to wrap my brain around.  For sure, not my heart.

In the book of Matthew in the Good Book, that number is given.  In response to the question, “How many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me?  Seven?”

“Seven? Hardly.  Try seventy times seven.”

Oh my.

Y’all.  Imagine if someone hurt you.  Bad.  Knowingly.  Willingly.  Showing no remorse.  And hurt others too.  Ones you love.  What do you do with that?  How do you forgive that seventy times seven times?

I’ll tell you where I am at in this.  I’m still working on number one.

I have put it behind me.  Yes.  Moved on.  Yes.  Days go by I don’t think about it anymore.  But when my memory confronts my heart, my heart still folds its hypothetical arms and shakes its little head and walks off with a frown and a heavy weight bearing down.  Just.  No.

How am I supposed to do that?  How can I forgive someone who has never asked for my forgiveness?  Who has, with a great degree of arrogance and to any one who would listen, indicated that I was/am/always will be the problem.

I don’t even know.

It makes me very sad.

I know the words of the Lord’s prayer.  And how some folks say they can’t pray the words “Forgive me…..AS I forgive them” because they haven’t been able to forgive yet.

And I know the rest of that story from the Good Book about how often we are called to forgive.  How the King forgave his servant who owed him a great deal when the servant asked him to.  How the huge debt was erased.  And how almost immediately the forgiven one came across a fellow servant who owed him a relatively small amount, and even though his debtor begged for forgiveness, he did not grant it and had his fellow servant thrown in jail.

The end of the story is that the folks who saw all of this happen were appalled.  They went and told the King, who was furious.  He confronted the servant and asked why he couldn’t forgive someone when he had been forgiven such a great debt.  Then he made the servant pay back the great amount he owed.

I get it.

I am given grace beyond measure.  I am forgiven multiple times every day.  Always.  I am thankful.  Humbled.  Blown away even.  And appreciative–did I mention I was thankful? I know I didn’t earn it and don’t deserve it.  At all.

But 490? Or as many times as it takes?  Do You really know what that person did to me?  Have You been following this storyline closely?  Are You aware?  Because if You have, surely You wouldn’t be asking this of me.  You’d know it’s beyond forgiveness, right?  Right?  Rig–

*sigh*

I don’t have any answers tonight.  No ideas for how to get over this hurdle.  I’ve been hurt by folks before and was able to move right along, eventually forgiving, forgetting, even becoming good friends after all was said and done.  Thankful for them in my life.

But this one.  This One. Is. Very.  Difficult.

So if you struggle with a pain or hurt that you can’t get past, know you’re not alone.  I’m not saying we’re right in being where we are, just that we are in this boat together, floating around in the darkness looking for a  way out of the murkiness of hurt and frustration.

And if that number seems way too big for you like it does for me, maybe we should just break it down and work on forgiving in this moment right here.  Just this very one, not looking beyond it.  Not for them–the ones who hurt us–but for us.  So we can leave the darkness.

Love and Light to all.

 

 

What do you think I should do?

There is one question I do not know how to answer.

What would you do?

Or its variation:

What do you think I should do?

Don’t get me wrong.  I ask these questions myself.  Just this afternoon I asked the vet tech what I should do about scheduling Miss Sophie’s spaying.  “What would you do?”  She didn’t pause for a second.  “Well, if she were my puppy…..”

All’s I’m asking.  Thank you.

But I’m not so great when the tables are turned.

When someone talks about how her child is doing in school and asks me about homeschooling, I can tell them what I did and why, but when it comes to what I think they should do, I struggle.  I don’t know.  What has worked for me might not work for them.

When someone asks about how to care for a sick loved one and starts talking about Hospice options, I can share what I know, but no way can I tell them if it is the right choice or not.

If a parent of a high school junior or senior wants to know what I think about his or her daughter going to Wesleyan, I can surefire tell them all that I love about the experience of being a part of the sisterhood there.  What do I think they should do–sure, send your daughter there.  But the truth of the matter is, I really don’t know what they should do.

When my daughter calls and wants to know how she should handle some drama at school, I can make suggestions, but I don’t really know exactly what she should do.  I’m not there, and I’m not her.  We are all different.

And then there’s the really hard questions–

like when a friend is thinking about quitting her job and going back to school, but she isn’t sure she can afford to–what do I think she should do?

or someone I love is having relationship problems and is considering making a huge life change, what do I think she should do?  Oh my, sweet girl, I have no idea.

I know how difficult this question of “what should I do” is to answer.  And still I ask it of others.

Why is that?

What am I asking for when I ask that question?  Advice?  Wisdom?  Or validation for what I already think I should do?

I don’t know.  Maybe yes, yes, and yes?

My heart breaks for the friends who have asked me this very question over the past few days.  Not so much because I couldn’t answer but because they are in a place where they felt the need to ask.

That place of feeling lost.  Of being unsure.  Of wobbling on the path they are on.  Wondering if another would be any better.

And there’s nothing I can do to help.  But listen.  And love them as I tell them I just don’t know the answer to their questions.  I don’t know what they should do.  Most of the time I’m not even sure what I should do.  Every fiber of my being wants to wrap them in a hug and, to quote from “Hey Jude” which Paul McCartney wrote for Julian Lennon to comfort him during his parents’ divorce, I just want to “take a sad song and make it better.”  Always wanting to make it better.  Whatever that would look like.

But I can’t.

And yet I find comfort in these words from an interesting 19th century English clergyman:

20140228-234442.jpg

Tonight I give thanks that there is something I can do.  I can’t fix it, I can’t make it better, I can’t even tell those whom I love what I think they should do.  But I can do two little things.  I can sit with them in the darkness* and walk alongside them.  And I can love them.  I can definitely do that.  I was taught by one of the best.

We may not have all of the answers or the magic to make things better for each other, but we do not journey alone.  And tonight I am the most grateful for that.

*from a quote by Hugh Hollowell, founder of Love Wins Ministry

Loving Through and Around and in the Midst Of

I looked down at where he was sitting.  “He died, you know.”

Mac looked away from me and then back again.  “Yeah, I know.  You told me.”

I stood there, thinking.  This person I love like a brother, sitting there, so lost and so out of touch with reality that he thinks himself untouchable, indomitable.  Were there any words that would get through to him?

“He didn’t think it was a problem.  He thought he was okay. He thought he had it under control too.” I fumbled for what else to say.

“Yeah.”  He shook something off, and laughed.  “Well hey.  I haven’t had a drink today.”  He laughed again.  “Yet.”

I knew the conversation was over.  I stood for a minute more, willing him to hear the words I didn’t say.

He had resources you don’t.  He had a home, a job, warm food at every meal, doctors and treatment at his disposal.  He could watch television anytime he wanted.  He didn’t have to wait in line for much of anything. The only time he had to walk was across a parking lot to his truck.  He had family and friends who loved him and enjoyed spending time with him.  And yet, the disease killed him.  He lost his life to this–this disease you have, the one you have fought so well only to fall prey to its control again and again.

What I wanted to say was, If it can get him, he who had all of those things working for him, how am I supposed to believe it won’t get you too? 

Because the reality is, odds are it will.

That was a week ago.

Today I stood outside Daybreak beside my friend Mac as he teased me about the ink stains from a leaky pen that covered my hand, making it look bruised.  We talked about the puppies that belonged to some other guests at Daybreak.  He looked over at them with a twinkle in his eyes.  “One day I’m gonna have me one of them.”

I nodded.  “That’ll be good.  When you get things…..settled.  Yes.  That will be good.”

“Yeah. I love me a dog.”

He’s had one before.  Living in the “camp” with him.  I never asked what happened to it.  He grew up with dogs and loves them.  I hope one day he can have one again.

We talked about his Mama who had come to see him and took him to handle some business today.  She’s a dear, sweet lady who does what she can.  He loves her too.

As we stood there and the breeze teased us with thoughts of warmer weather, I looked at my friend and wanted to cry.  He looked good today.  He was sober, maybe due to the impending trip with his Mama, I don’t know.  I’ll take it whatever the reason.  He was waiting on his laundry to be done and enjoying sitting outside in the sun.

One of our other friends was under the pavilion trimming someone’s hair.  I asked Mac if he was the next one in line for that.

“Noooooo,” he said, shaking his head.  “I ain’t ever cutting my hair again.”

Aub and I looked at him and squinted in the sunshine.  I tilted my head to the side, looking and picturing him in my mind’s eye with his shoulder length hair even longer.

“I can see it.  Willie Nelson braids.”

“Oooh, and the bandana, yes, you could rock that look,” Aub said, remembering the cover of one of Daddy’s Willie Nelson albums no doubt.

Mac laughed.  “Yeah?  You think?”

As I prepared to let the littles know it was time to go and pull them away from playing with their new friend, I looked over at Mac.  This man who is a poet and artist and who loves to cook and dreamed of opening a restaurant for those in need one day.  The one whose eyes and smile remind me so much of my Daddy, but who is his own man, just as lovable for different reasons.  I don’t even pretend to understand him anymore.  I can want it for him, but sobriety and living in a home, any kind of home, is something he has to want for himself and then be willing to work for.  And the truth is, he doesn’t want those things.  He would rather camp out in the woods somewhere and miss meals when he has to than follow the rules set up by a rehabilitation home and not have to worry about things like food or a roof over his head.  I don’t understand that mindset, but that is where he is.  It’s the disease taking control.

And so I have a choice.

I can walk away, frustrated that he continues to throw his life away and attempt to prevent myself from further heartbreak and worry. Or

I can love him as he is.  Love him no matter what choices he makes.  Love him without trying harder than he does to make things “better” for him, even when that means certain heartbreak.

What he has is a disease.  It’s a hard one.  It has people shaking their heads, wondering why he doesn’t just “stop” instead of reaching out a hand and offering prayers and warm hugs and food brought over in throw-away containers as we all would if the disease had a name like cancer or heart disease instead of the name “alcoholism.”  The name doesn’t allow much room for grace, so not many folks will offer it to those who suffer with it.

But facts are facts.  He struggles with his addiction, but that does not make him less of a person.  He lives outdoors, but that doesn’t make him not human.  He makes choices I don’t get, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be friends.  Or family.

Tonight I give thanks for this reprieve from the bitter cold.  Tonight maybe Mac will sleep a little more comfortably.  I am thankful he has a place like Daybreak to go to for showers, laundry, phone use, and so many other resources.  I am thankful for Loaves and Fishes and Macon Outreach at Mulberry UMC which open their doors to share a meal with people who are in need.  Most of all, I am thankful for a whole new understanding of what love looks like.  Yes, in loving Mac I am risking heartache down the road.  But so is he.  He risks his heart every time he lets someone get close.  He risks being hurt like he has in the past, by people who love him when he’s doing okay, when he’s sober, when he’s making those good choices, or just talking about those choices.  He risks people walking away when he just can’t fight it any longer.  When they just can’t understand why he is as he is.  I am working hard to be worthy of that risk, of that trust.

I give thanks for Mac’s life today.  In the words of Mac himself, and it never fails to bring light into my heart and make me smile,

“If ain’t nobody told you that they love you today, well, I love you.”

And love.  That’s what we’re here for, right?

Love to all.

Expectations, Script Writing, and the End of the World

Today a wise friend shared with me this sage advice that someone shared with her.

20131230-215803.jpg

Well.

I am a script writer from way back.  For as far back as I can remember I have plotted and played out in my mind how something should/could go.  I don’t know when it started, it’s just what I do.  When a twist or turn happens in life, the wheels immediately start turning on how to bring it back around.  How to fix it.  To incorporate the “plot twist” into where I wanted the script to go.  Ummm, yes.  And then it inevitably happens.

I get disappointed.

Because sometimes (and only occasionally, mind you) it’s not all about me.

And sometimes it’s someone else’s issues and choices and I just need to let it go.  Because no amount of script writing on my part can change someone else.  And when I forget that and think it can, I set myself up for the disappointment.

Why do I do that to myself?

I am thankful to know that I’m not the only one.  And to realize that, as my Mama would say, “This too shall pass.”  Most likely my disappointments and hurt feelings won’t kill me.  Yeah, they knock me for a loop, but it’s not the end of the world.  It might feel like it at the time, but more than likely, it’s really not the end.

I found a great story of another person who is a script writer, and it’s so funny, she actually recycles scripts–those from movies.  She took a trip to IKEA and had it all planned out how it should go.  It was supposed to be so fabulous.  And of course it was not the movie theater/happy ending experience she  had hoped it would be.  That she expected it to be.  She too shared the bit of advice my friend shared with me.  And then she shared this little tidbit:

I think it’s wonderful to know that while disappointments might not be fun or taste really great sometimes, they most likely will not kill us.  Check out her blog here.  It’s a delightful read.  And I highly recommend reading it when you are suffering from disappointment or have a refrigerator with only baby carrots in it.  Her story is the spoonful of sugar that Mary Poppins sang about.

Tonight I wish for us all some joy and laughter and a friend to remind us to let go and that it will be okay…..eventually.  A friend to have our back and to bring us baby carrots when we need to be reminded of the light and laughter in life.

May you continue to have merry memory-making!  Love to all.