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Slowly tipping the copper ibrik so as not to disturb the settled grounds, I poured the dark sweet Turkish coffee into my demitasse. I always enjoy taking my coffee on my back porch. There I can sit and read in the early morning sun, surrounded by my potted plants of grapes, blueberries, and a lone planter of chamomile.
As I sat there this particular morning, I turned to the blueberry bush, my attention caught by the gentle drone of a bumblebee. One flower at a time, this little connoisseur made his way around the small spindly branches, sampling the small stashes of pollen in each delicate white cup. As I watched, movement caught the corner of my eye.
There in the same pot was a small sapling. It was a post oak smaller than my hand with all of seven leaves to make its crown. It was dancing there beneath the blueberry bush as though by magic. It danced of its own accord. There was no wind that would have started it swaying.
The bumblebee continued its course, completely unimpressed by this marvel. The sapling would dance for a while and then grow still, catching its breath before picking up again its excited choreography.
What a wonder that this little sapling could dance all on its own!
While watching this performance, I had grown still in my chair, not wanting to break the spell. As I sat there, I felt the slightest caress of a breeze against my arm. It was cool and so, so gentle. If I had been moving at all, I would not have recognized it.
Ah ha! There was the muse for my little prima dona’s dance. This gentle breeze, so easily missed was what my little sapling was responding to. How strange it was for me to see it swaying and not know why. I imagine the bumblebee ignored it because it didn’t understand.
How many people do we have the chance to meet each day that dance to a gentler breeze and we try not to see them? We try so desperately to ignore then. How many times have we been made uncomfortable by that one lone person who seems perfectly content with exactly where they are? They seem to bask in an unseen light and that light radiates from them.
We don’t know what gentle breeze is making their heart dance, and so we move quickly on. We avert our eyes. We try not to see someone enjoying what we know in our own hearts we are missing. But in that, we are just too busy moving about in our own lives. If we can simply stop for just a moment, become still, then we can feel that gentle breeze that moves them.
We must be still in order to recognize the most subtle breath of Holy Spirit. Others that dance to it when we are too busy to feel it ourselves look so out of place. But it’s there, always, for all of us to feel if we can but take a moment to be still and let that soft cool breath caress us.
And who knows! Maybe when we are finally still, we will not only feel that gentle breeze that causes someone else to dance, but maybe we will begin to dance to it as well.
“There’s no mystery about a human life. It’s not a mystery to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” — Leto II (Children of Dune Frank Herbert)
Tonight is our Order’s annual Great Vigil leading to the sunrise service of Easter. I must say that vigils rock my little world. Some people, ok most people cringe when they hear about having to stay up all night in meditation and prayer, but I get seriously pumped just thinking about it.Why? Well, for one thing, every single vigil I’ve ever had has always been deeply moving for me; a profound experience. For those that have never actually kept a full vigil, it is difficult to describe the experience. There is a transformation that takes place over the course of the night, and when the morning finally comes it’s as though my soul sighs in great release.
The Great Vigil consists of readings and psalms interspersed with periods of silence. Throughout the night, we stand watch over the tiny flickering flame of the new Paschal light. For the entirety of the night, that small candle will represent for us the presence of God as we meditate on the empty feeling that remained following Christ’s crucifixion and before the resurrection. We sit through the darkest hours of the night before dawn. We struggle to ward off sleep as we focus on the presence of God deep within us, as we shelter our own flickering flames of God’s Love within us.
Each year for my vigil I carry with me into the darkened church the emotional and spiritual baggage that I have managed to collect over Lent. I bear my own cross, as it were. I go in knowing that it will be a long night and that God and I are going to have a very vary long talk. I feel so vulnerable when I sit in my pew through the night, staring at the stripped altar, knowing that before the Divine I am similarly stripped bare.It is in the darkness of the church that I delve inwardly to my own darkness. The pain of disappointment, the pain of confusion, the pain of rejection and loss, the pain of yearning…all of this I allow myself to feel while constantly recognizing that God is right there feeling and enduring it with me. Between the hours of 3 and 4 are when I feel the most alone. That truly is the darkest hour, when the stars have faded but the horizon has yet to lighten. The night animals have quieted and the morning birds have not yet started to sing. The night seems to hold its breath before the coming dawn as though still not entirely sure that dawn will come.
But the hour finally passes and I sit, my soul gasping from the struggle and fear. God is with me, so close I can touch Her, so close I need only whisper for Her to hear me. Again, it is so difficult to describe this to someone who has never experienced it. But then comes the dawn, the celebration of Easter begins! The light rises in the sky and the flickering of our candle is lost in the greater luminescence. The sun rises as we celebrate the rising of the Christ. The Sun breaks the fearful power of the dark night as the Christ breaks the terrible darkness of death.
And in all the celebration of the Easter Service, I sit trembling at the touch of a God who holds me closely. I want nothing more than to rest against that great shoulder and rest, wrapped so lovingly in God’s arms. I can hear God whispering as I watch the service half dazed, God’s hand cradling my face against Her chest, “It was tough, I know, but shhhh. I told you we’d make it through.”
Sunday morning, at 8:00 AM, I found myself in a parking lot in Rowell playing dodge ball with a modern day Yogi, Sadhguru. I had originally gone to see a friend’s investiture ceremony, but there was a generl breakdown in communication on that. Regardless, I still wonder at the experience! Bright and early, working on a mere 4 hours of sleep (I can thank my friend Russ for that part), I was basking in an amazing sunrise and watching what an enlightened person does best: LIVE. Before they formally got us into circles to play, Sadhguru had brought out a frisbee to throw around. I would like to add at this point that Sadhguru has one hell of a wicked throwing arm.Sunday morning was the fifth day of the program that he was leading. My friend had told me about the amazing things that Sadhguru had taught and said over the course of the past few days, and I had an idea of the wise contemplative that this man must be, but that morning was nothing like I would have expected and yet exactly what it should have been. Dancing around the crowd were the many children there who parents were going through the program.
Right there, seeing two little sisters play with a soccer ball, so free and genuine, I saw more of the reality of grace than perhaps anything Sadhguru could have taught. But then to be running around in my habit, playing dodge ball and clutching my rosary so it didn’t get in the way as I pranced about, I experienced that grace in the crowd all around. Everyone being a kid again (or at least trying to be). Then Sadhguru joined the outside circle and I’m proud to say that I finally got tagged out by none other than a kick-ass Yogi.
8:00 in the morning, and I found myself playing dodge ball. What a remarkable life it is.
I have recently been reading Bishop John Shelby Spong’s latest book titled “The Sins of Scripture.” Though I am not quite finished with it (only a few pages left now), what he brings up towards the end of the book has sparked an interesting insight for meditation. I’d like to share that here.
Bishop Spong does an excellent job placing the creation of the Hebrew scriptures into its historical context. Ultimately, he shows the evolution of these historical and politcal works as they were written to reflect and shape the cultural bliefs of the Hebrew people. Chronologically, there is a very distinct progression and transformation of identity, especially in regards to interaction with other non-Jewish peoples. To crudely summarize, the Hebraic texts begin with a very self-centered and isolating mentality, grow further in self-definition during the reign of the kings and tension between the northern and southern Jewish kingdons, grow further into self-imposed isolation within other cultures during the exile periods for the purpose of survival, but finally grow into a strong personal identity that not only allows but even calls for integration and acceptance of other peoples. As Bishop Spong describes it, they went from a strict self-preserving tribal mentality to an inclusive social justice mentality.
Ultimately, the lesson prescribed is that God is Love, and as such humans have no right to draw boundaries where God has drawn none. The Jewish people were (and still are) a commmunity whose identity was religious and they were defined by their religous beliefs and practices. Out of fear of losing that identity, boudnaries were made to cast away others that differed. It was a fear that the Jewish identity would be lost in assimilation during the Diasporas. This same fear of loosing a communal religous identity is found througout Christianity and is deeply invested in its history.
I find it saddening that Jewish religious identity had progressed to the point of acceptance and tolerance if not even a full embrace of other peoples at the time of Jesus, only to see that progression completely erased by those who would later shape the religion that would claim to be based on the example of Jesus as Christ. The problem in Christianity is not even necessarily Christians vs. everyone else. Even worse than that for so many, it has come to “my” version of Christianity vs. everyone else. There are demoninations that won’t even sit at the same table as other denominations because they are not “true Christians” in their eyes. How utterly absurd this is!
Rather than look at the history of the religion that claims to be based on the Christ and has been defined by one drawing of boundaries after another, let us take a brief moment to look at the example of Jesus in his life time.
Jesus taught, feasted, partied with and even celebrated people of differing religious backgrounds from his own. He lauded the outcast samaritans. He did not go to them and tell them to be his kind of Jew. He ate with the “unclean” non jews. He did not tell them to change to his kind of Jew before he could sit with them. He healed non-Jews. He did not say they had to be Jewish before he would help them or even after helping them tell them to go be Jewish. In fact, what he was most often reported to have said was “Go and sin no more,” not go and convert! He taught Jews and non-Jews alike. He did not say in any of the lessons that are passed down in the Gospels that they have to be Jewish let alone a certain kind of Jew. Jesus was secure enough in his own religious identity that he was not afraid of someone of differing beliefs being around him. Even among his apostles, his closests students, confidants and friends he had quite the diversity.
Maybe I’m going out on a limb, but I would say that Jesus understood the value of diversity. We are called to grow in love. Growth is change. There can be no change when we are all the same. In uniformity there is no alternative view that allows us the greatest gift we could imagine – the opportunity to question ourselves in a new light.
And here we see the distinction. Jesus prays that we all will be one in God. That is an act of unity. Jesus does not pray that we all will be the same in God. He does not call for an act of uniformity. God celebrates in diversity. His creation proves that. But people, it seems, have a great deal of difficulty doing the same. Instead, people tend to react out of personal fears of insecurity and strike out (usually violently; either physically, economically, or emotionaly) at others that are differnt. These fears are deeply rooted and very VERY sensative to the touch.
But these fears must be addressed and overcome. That is what the progression of the Hebraic texts calls for and the example of Jesus offers. Keep in mind that at no point did these lessons teach that allowing differences would have to mean giving up one’s own beliefs. Respecting and even celebrating differences does not automatically preclude that one’s own beliefs will be shattered. They may be challenged. They may even be changed in same way. But brothers and sisters, this is what God calls us to do. We can find greater depth in our own faiths by drawing from the experience of others, even if they aren’t the same as ours.
I did not become less of a Christian when I took classed from a Sufi Muslim. I did not loose my belief in God when I was taught by a Buddhist. I did not loose my Christian identity when I sat a table of very dear Jewish friends and celebrated Passover with them. Quite the contrary. I found a far greater and deeper connection with God when I took part in that diversity.
I did loose something though. I lost a stuck up, elitest and yes even prejudiced attitude. I lost previous views that were not grounded in Love. I give thanks to God every day for having had the opportunity to loose that baggage. I also pray to God everday that I will find myself in more opportunities like that.
My brothers and sisters, let us find unity in mutual respect and Love for each other while working to set aside those terrible fears that cause us to fight for uniformity at the cost of others. Let us ask ourselves this question and meditate in response: Does God call us into union with one another or uniformity? Amen.
In response to the Anglican Primates’ Communiqué of February 20, 2007
A very dear friend of mine recently got out of a two and half year relationship that was terribly emotionally abusive. It was painful for myself as well as his other close friends to watch, because one who was dear to us was constantly being hurt, constantly being worn down and the shining qualities of his soul that we his friends had seen before were constantly being crushed and erased. The major function of his boyfriend as abuser in this relationship was to demean my friend and hold as much power over him as possible. Put simply, he had to control him in order to be happy.
Emotional abuse is an insidious weapon. It slowly wears the person’s self esteem down by the abuser constantly placing guilt on the other when in truth the one being abused is never at fault. But by making that person feel guilty, the abuser gains control and can manipulate their partner with great ease. But this abuse is deceptive, sly and eventually becomes so pervasive that the abused does not even realize when they are being treated so awfully. The abused becomes attached to the relationship after time, because the presence of the abuse becomes habitual so that when the abuse grows to be obvious the abused does not even think to fight back by that time.
The emotional abuse took many forms. One way was his boyfriend placing undue guilt on him to make him feel he was always in the wrong. This, over time, broke his will as it eroded his self confidence. Another tactic was that his boyfriend would punish him by withholding affection and love in order to get whatever he wanted. The most invasive form of abuse came when he boyfriend started spying on him, creeping around outside his window to see if he could catch him being unfaithful or prying into his emails to find evidence against him. To anyone outside the relationship, this was obviously insane, yet to my friend in the relationship he still could not see this as abuse.
The terrible truth is that it was his boyfriend that had the severe issues yet he could never take personal ownership of that and instead blamed my friend for his insecurities. Over time, I saw my friend take on that mantle of guilt and start to believe that he was actually the cause, that his boyfriend did have the right to constantly mistrust, invade and control. I watched a dear friend that at one time had been such an amazing individual, he had a soul that shined and radiated love and compassion…I watched that person be destroyed by that abuse.
Most frustrating was that because the abusive relationship was so ensnaring, he could not see the damage being done. Just as an addict shows the basic sign of addiction – denial – he refused to see the abuse that was destroying him. In his mind he was hanging onto the relationship in the hopes that it would get better because he was pouring so much effort, energy and love into it. In a healthy relationship, that effort would not be wasted, but in an abusive relationship, the person being broken can give all they have and it will never be enough. The abusive partners in these relationships are like emotional vampires, bleeding the love out of their partners until there is nothing left.
No matter what, his boyfriend would never see him for the wonderful person he was. He would never see him the way we, his friends, always had. A relationship should be based on the love of the person for who they are. Respect automatically goes with that as does trust. These are the attributes of a healthy relationship. As Dostoevsky said, “To love someone is to see them as God intended.” That is real love. The need to control another in order to divert one’s attention from their own severe issues, to hide from one’s own brokenness is not love. Such action does not create a loving partner, it creates a victim. It denies the very spark of God in the other person because they cannot find the spark of God in themselves. An abusive relationship is based on fear, fear that allows control. This is not love.
Christ called us to love one another. To love each other as God loves us. The Church was intended to be a Christian community; that is a loving community. We are called to be in (healthy) relationship with one another. The Church is called the “Body of Christ”, the same Christ that called us to love. The actions of the Church should be the example of a healthy and loving relationship. Why then, I ask with a terrible sadness, did the Primates of our Anglican Communion, the leaders of Christ’s Church issue the Communiqué that they did? From part 9 after of that Communiqué, I ask: Where is there a loving act or respect for God’s diverse people in any of that report?
It has been almost a week since that Communiqué was issued, and I have taken this long to formulate a response because I desperately needed time spent in silence with God before I did so. I did not want my response to be out of anger, which was my first reaction to reading it. Anger is a secondary emotion. Its intent is to shield us from what we are fundamentally feeling, which in this case was sorrow, betrayal and dreadful fear.
What hurts the most is that those were the very emotions that the Primates purposefully wanted to elicit from us. Why would they want to threaten us with censor and expulsion in order to cause us such fear? Plainly, by doing so they hope to control our actions and make us feel guilty for the actions we have taken so far.
A healthy relationship is based on love. An abusive relationship is based on fear in order to control.
Dear God, how have the leaders of our Church allowed our Communion to veer from love into the model of abuse?
My friend eventually realized that he was not at fault for all that his boyfriend threw at him. It is most important that the victim of abuse realize that they are not actually at fault for their partner’s issues and insecurities. Likewise, the Episcopal Church must never accept the mantel of guilt which these Primates are going to such great length to place upon us. There is never reason to feel guilty about acting out of love. There should never be guilt in following the example of Jesus himself in ministering to, accepting, and ultimately uplifting and redeeming the oppressed of God’s children.
The relationship in our Communion, the Church which is meant to be the Body of Christ is broken – actions and statements made are no longer loving. There is a problem with the relationship. The relationship has become abusive. Emotional abuse comes as undue guilt – they tell us we are wrong for loving the oppressed and ostracized children of God. Emotional abuse comes as control – they demand to overrule what was canonically decided by our House of Bishops and Deputies. Emotional Abuse uses love as a weapon by withholding it as punishment – they threaten to remove us from our Anglican Communion. This situation can only be rectified if we stop reacting to the problem and start acting on in it instead. And just as my friend discovered, he was not the problem with the relationship. The one doling out the abuse was.
Why this abuse then? Why are these Primates and the hierarchy of their provinces making this issue seem as though it will be the cause of the downfall of the moral Church? The simplest answer seems to be the most difficult to accept. The fact is, our Church, the Body of our Beloved Christ is run by people – fragile and imperfect human beings. If the guidance of the Holy Spirit was all pervasive and obvious, such difficulties would never arise. The leaders of the Church would always act out of love from God and never in self interest. We are human, though, and those in authority can ignore such guidance. But hey, that’s the price we must pay for the divine gift of free will, right?
A great threat arises when individuals forget that condition, when they assume that by the grace of their ecclesiastical office they are somehow exempt from the possibility of following their own self interest. A greater threat arises when parishioners and entire provinces start believing that same delusion. Contemplative spirituality, the journey that finds God in the question rather than building surety around having “The” answer, used to be the check that kept that threat of personal self interest in balance. But the contemplative lens has long since been removed from the mechanism of the Church polity.
Am I wrong? Is the move of a Nigerian Archbishop to make an unprecedented political grab for power in a province over which he has no authority not actually driven by self interested greed? Power and prestige in our Church seems to have become defined by money and numbers (rather than spiritual quality of those to whom they minister). How many Church leaders describe a parish, diocese and province by first listing those statistics? Greedy men who crave power, who desire money and then even more money and who want authority over more and more people do not make good Church leaders. The fact is, when that type of power is all that will satiate them, then it is the people of God that are used as currency to purchase the power desired by these greedy egotistical men. Worse yet, when fear is used to gain that power, the cost for that currency exchange is a necessary scapegoat.
Societal prejudices make great fuel for feeding fear, but it requires a target. To convince people they have to be saved from something they fear, they have to have a focus for that fear: a scapegoat, a target, a group that can be oppressed. It should go without saying that such a ploy is the exact opposite of love, the exact opposite of what Christ taught. Have our Primates forgotten that it was to the oppressed that Jesus ministered? Have they forgotten that Jesus turned to the outcasts and said that by the religious purity laws they were unclean and untouchable but to God they were loved and worth embracing?
How far have the leaders of our Anglican Communion strayed from this? How have we allowed the interrelations of Communion to become an abusive relationship? We, the body of the Church, have allowed Church leaders to lead us by fear. The actions of Church leaders should NEVER be to make people fear, but always to love.
We need to leave behind theology of fear and hate. We are a far cry from being “naught but sinners in the hands of an angry God.” We must not be convinced by those that seek to control us by fear that we are dangling over the flames of hell, held up by a mere spider’s thread. In actuality, fear is that thread that leaves us dangling. For when we have the courage to let go of that fear, we will find that we fall not into flames of torment but into the hands of a loving God – a God that is there to support his children, not condemn them.
There is a theme that runs through the Bible that says we should “fear” God. There is a great danger in that word in that it can be taken one of two ways. On the one hand, there is a fear that is inspired by something that will hurt us, that is out to get us and we must run from it or fight it. On the other hand, there is a fear that is best associated with respect. Fear of God is the latter. It could never be the former, because that type of fear comes from something of malicious and dangerous intent. Yet it is that type of fear that certain Church leaders would have instilled in the Body of Christ.
Do I think that every Primate and Bishop instilling this fear of homosexuals in their parishioners and the fear of schism in the U.S. are doing it for the purpose of gaining ecclesiastical power? Certainly not. Do I believe that some are? Absolutely. The fact that an archbishop would make an unprecedented grab for authority in a province for which he has no jurisdiction proves that. His actions prove his intent and to see the effects of such intent on our Communion is heartbreaking. Why the Archbishop of Canterbury has allowed such a flagrant abuse of power for this long, I have no idea. But it is deeply saddening to think that My Lord Archbishop Dr. Williams would bend to the political pressures of one man rather than stand for the rights of the oppressed, the very oppressed that he had publicly stood up for earlier in his career.
For those Church leaders who would threaten schism for the sake of their own political gain, their ability to gain such ground and be allowed such tactics can be limited only by the number of Bishops and Primates who will actually take a stance and not tolerate such actions. The silence of those who could actually make a difference, even if in their heart they are supportive of gay rights, will make no difference at all if not in fact lend support to such abuse of authority. For those that use this situation to gain power, I have little to no hope of ever expecting them to actually try and save this Communion by entering dialogue and actually engaging the real issues here.
The real issue is ignorance: Ignorance of what homosexuality really is and ignorance of the prejudices that still plague our global society. For many of the Primates that have supported the ultimatum of this Communiqué, I cannot hate them for their stance. Rather, I pity them greatly, for this is the first time that many have been forced to even look at let alone question prejudices that they took for granted as fact. The fear they are trying to instill in us comes from the fear they feel in their own lives in having to question what they thought was true. These Church leaders are severely uneducated in these matters. I find hope in the earlier issue addressed in the Communiqué regarding a standard for theological education provided such a standard includes social justice and human rights.
But the fact remains that we have Archbishops, Bishops and Priests across the Anglican Communion but most notably concentrated in the African and Asian provinces that follow a blind hatred of homosexuals. Like all prejudices, I doubt they have ever had to put a face on the people they are condemning so recklessly. I doubt that they have had to see the effects of the hatred they support. They have not had to experience what I and many others have. They have not had to counsel young men in women and even teenagers who are on the brink of suicide because their families were taught to hate them for who they know they are in their hearts. They have not had to see the scars of those who tried suicide for that reason and failed. They have not had to see the funeral services for those that tried and succeeded. They have not had to see the broken bodies of those beaten for simply being gay by men who think such violence is acceptable because their Church leaders publicly support such hatred. They have not had to count the bodies of those that are killed every year because of the violence born of this terrible prejudice.
Though they have never turned an eye to see these victims, the fact remains that they are a significant cause of it. This is where our prayers should be following this Communiqué: that those who blindly hate eventually recognize the damage they are doing. We who are most hurt and most threatened by this Communiqué must not respond in anger or return hatred for hatred. No, instead we must continue to love even those who refuse to love us because THAT is what Jesus commanded us to do. We must pray that our Bishops will act in that same love and continue to protect those whom they have helped redeem in God’s Church thus far while still being compassionate to those who would condemn them. This does not mean they should give in to the abusive tactics that have been presented to them be rather continue struggling to keep the door of conversation and understanding open.
I am terribly frightened of the outcome of this mess that we are in. Afraid that the Episcopal Church will give in and step backwards from the advances it has made in redeeming all of God’s people. Afraid of the witch-hunt that could follow from conservatives blaming gays and lesbians for this strife, using them again as scapegoats rather than actually addressing those that are forcing this situation out of self interest or hateful prejudice. Afraid of the Church that is my Christian family fracturing because of the narrow-minded bigotry of a select but powerful few. But for all that I am afraid of in this, all that would stricken me in grief for my Anglican brothers and sisters that preach such hate, I know that we cannot respond in fear and we must not respond in similar hatred and anger.
Just as we hope that those who threaten us will eventually see us has God’s own, we must strive to continue recognizing the God in those who would hurt and abuse us most. Being so uneducated in this matter, they have issued a Communiqué and ultimatum that is entirely un-Anglican let alone un-Christian, a response that is entirely inappropriate. I would have expected them instead, as adults, to develop healthy and respectful personal boundaries as would be expected of anyone who intends on being a part of today’s civilized society. With healthy boundaries rather than threats and abuse, this issue can be addressed. Nonetheless, no matter what comes, let us respond in compassion, seek to put a face on those that they condemn for them so they can actually see the damage they do and show them that we can and will respond to hatred, no matter how vicious, with love and hope for a fuller Communion and a healthier Christian relationship.
I pray that our Bishops have the courage to continue protecting those whom others would condemn and subject to violence. I pray they recognize and address the abusive behavior coming out of the leaders of our Communion. When abuse is called out and finally recognized, then it has no chance of surviving, plain and simple. And I pray most of all that the Love of Holy Spirit makes Her presence known among all in our Anglican Communion. No matter what, let us continue in love as brothers and sisters in Jesus our Christ. Amen.
Silentio Coram Deo,
Abbot Kenneth Hosley, O.P.C.
February 26, 2007
A brief poem coming from the midst of my Urban Hermitage this week:
My spirit has wanted to dance
In that space that hangs between us
In a place of silence and God.
While reading through some of the sayings of the early desert hermits, I came across this:
“Abba Mios was asked by a soldier whether God would forgive a sinner. After instructing him at some length, the old man asked him: ‘Tell me, my dear, if your cloak were torn, would you throw it away?’ ‘Oh, no!’ he replied, ‘I would mend it and wear it again.’ The old man said to him: ‘Well, if you care for your cloak, will not God show mercy to his own creature?’ ”
A wonderful little story, to be sure! Exactly along the lines of Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels. But when I took this story into my silence and imagined this scene in our present times, my meditations were led in a different direction:
I imagined a woman, finely dressed, that came up to me. Rather aloof, she commented to me that she found no use for God since the pastor at her last church had said that those who sin are doomed to hell. Then she asked or rather challenged me for my own opinion as to whether God would forgive a sinner.
Following Abba Mios’ example I asked this woman, “If your fine dress were torn, would you throw it away.”
She looked down at me, and with a huff said, “Of course I would! I have no use for a torn dress. I’ll just buy a new one.”
So I asked another way, “But what if the soles on your fine shoes were worn through, would you throw those away or have them fixed?”
Almost laughing, she replied, “I hardly wear a pair of shoes long enough to wear them about before I find another pair that I must have! But what does this have to do with my question? Do you think God would forgive a sinner?”
So I looked to God and asked, “God, would you throw this woman away for her faults the same way she throws away her fine clothes without a thought to repairing them?”
Sadly, I felt, He answered, “It is not I that would throw her away, but it is she that has thrown me away because of a single hole she found in the image of me that another man had created for her. And rather than look through that hole to see me as I truly am on the other side of that image, she has cast me away entirely for something else that she finds as being far better.”
“Well? What is your opinion?” she asked impatiently.
“I am sorry, ma’am,” I replied, “but no opinion of mine can help you.”
With that, she turned and stormed off, a trail of less than perfect clothes left lying in her wake.