Tag Archives: betrayal

vulnerability-trust-God

Taking risks

“To what end?” my friend Jim used to ask me—usually when I was considering something he thought pointless or even foolish. One incident I remember had to do with a guy I had known when I lived in Canada.

This was a guy I was thinking of marrying—until I found out he was seeing someone else. Ouch! He apologized and asked for forgiveness, and I forgave him. But I was back in the States by then, and I never got around to writing to tell him I forgave him.vulnerability-trust-GodSeveral years later, I happened to see him, and I was genuinely friendly; I had forgiven him. He was so happy—and relieved—I felt a bit bad that I had not written to him. Afterward, he wrote to thank me for forgiving him. His letter included an update on his life (I already knew from mutual friends that the other relationship had not worked out), and he said it would be good to hear from me.

Hmm. Would I write back? “To what end?” Jim asked.

I understood his question. What was I going to gain by reconnecting with someone who had hurt me? Why would I take that chance? What did I hope would happen?

In the end, the impulse to respond passed, and I never wrote back. But I had saved his letter, which I discovered the other day when I was going through some boxes of old letters.

Twenty-five years have passed since he broke my heart, and I have no ill will toward him; I have moved on (ok, perhaps not completely since I have never risked the possibility of marriage again).vulnerability-trust-GodWhile I was in Ireland recently, I visited with two women I also knew from when I lived in Canada. I had not seen either of them in many years and had reconnected with them through Facebook.

When one of them suggested a visit, I responded without hesitation, even though I could hear Jim’s voice in my head asking, “To what end?”

I had no answer except that I wanted to see them—no need to justify or have next steps planned out. I just wanted to reconnect.vulnerability-trust-GodProtecting ourselves from possible hurt is important, and I know that Jim’s question usually came out of his concern for me. He saw the pain I had gone through when my heart was broken, and he cared enough about me to want to shield me from further hurt.

I was always more of a risk-taker than Jim, which was one of the things he loved about me. With risk comes more potential for hurt.

I have been keeping my heart safely locked up for a long time now, not making myself vulnerable or risking pain. To what end? I ask myself. Am I happier living in a cocoon?

When Jim had cancer and was pondering life with intentionality, he often said, “Think big thoughts.” Acting on those big thoughts involves risk; I am ready.vulnerability-trust-God

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expectations-family-letting go

Unmet expectations

So Abram said to Lot: Let there be no strife between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are kinsmen. (Genesis 13:8)

“You have a perfect family,” my friend Jim used to tell me. Of course, he knew the quirks and dysfunctions of my family, but it was his way of reminding me to intentionally look for the good—and to be grateful.expectations-family-letting goI was reminded of this the other day when I was praying for the people on my prayer list—a hand-written list I keep in my Liturgy of the Hours book. Some people on the list are very close to me—family and friends—and others are people I have been asked to pray for, people I often don’t even know, but who have undergone some great suffering—divorce, illness, job loss, etc.

Several of the families lost children to drug overdoses or suicides. Others have been shattered by misunderstandings, betrayal, or some other dysfunction. Illness, accidents, drugs, alcohol, mental illness—the list of things that can go wrong in a family is long.

Four years ago, I moved home to be near my family. It was a good move for me, and I am deeply grateful for the way my family (both immediate and extended) has welcomed me and created a space for me in their lives. I feel blessed by my relatives, but I know that not everyone has that same experience.

Sometimes families are like Abram and Lot who “could not dwell together.” (Genesis 13:6) Abram was wise to recognize the issues and address them, but I am not sure that happens very often. More often, I think people hold onto an image of what they think a family should be.expectations-family-letting goA friend recently told me that her brother had manipulated their mother into taking $10,000 from the bank and giving it to him. It is, of course, not about the money—whether it is $10,000, $100,000 or $10—it is about the manipulation and sense of betrayal.

Letting go of unrealistic expectations can be so difficult, but holding onto them is much more painful. Wishing and hoping that people will act in a certain way is a set-up for disappointment.expectations-family-letting goBut it must be fairly common to have high expectations for our families, because I keep meeting people who are surprised by some relative’s actions—like my friend who expected her brother to keep his hands off their mother’s money.

My family was perfect in that it was a great training ground for me in letting go. As a young child, I learned that more often than not things were not going to turn out as I hoped, so I needed to readjust my expectations. Over time, I have learned to ask God, What is the invitation in this? What am I to learn when my expectations are not met, when I am disappointed?

The lesson is usually about my unrealistic expectations, and the invitation is to let go.expectations-family-letting go

 

 

 

 

Aging gracefully

When I was in my mid-forties, I became more aware of women who were aging gracefully. These were women in their fifties, sixties and seventies who were not embarrassed by their grey hair or shape-shifting bodies. They exercised for health but did not obsess over the effects of gravity. Peace and wisdom seemed to emanate from them, and just being in their presence calmed me.

aging-gracefully

These women were content with themselves and their lives. They lived in gratitude for all that had been and hope that the best was yet to come—even though they had endured hardship and suffering.

One woman had lost a son to suicide and another had a life-threatening disease. Another woman’s husband had been having an affair and after forty years of marriage, he asked for a divorce. My friend was devastated by his betrayal. Yet, even in her pain, she was able to pray for the grace to see her ex-husband and his new wife as God saw them.

What courage, I thought. I want to grow old with that much courage and grace.

I know that holding onto hurt and anger can make me bitter and cynical, and that is not how I want to live. I believe God calls me to live as my friend did—to forgive and let go, to be compassionate and merciful, to try to see as God sees and to love as God loves.

Last Friday, I turned sixty-five; I am a senior citizen by every definition. We have longevity in my family—my mother is ninety and her mother lived to ninety-six—but I know I have many fewer days ahead than have already passed. That awareness gives me a greater sense of urgency to appreciate each day.

aging-gracefully

The Native American story of the two wolves that live within me has been coming to mind recently: One wolf is good and does no harm. She lives in harmony with everyone around her and takes no offense when none was intended. She is joy, peace, serenity, hope, love, kindness and compassion.

aging-gracefully

The other wolf is full of anger. The littlest thing will set her off in a fit of rage. She fights anyone, any time, for no reason. She is full of envy, greed, anger, regret, self-pity, false pride and resentment.

The two wolves vie for my attention and energy; whichever one I feed will dominate.

I am paying more attention to the negativity within and around me and trying to counter it with positivity and hope.

I tend to think of my life in thirds—the first third was formative; the second third was restorative and this third I want to be generative.

Like those women I admire, I want to show compassion and mercy, to forgive and to encourage others to let go of anger and regret. I want to be content and grateful.

Life is short—no matter how many years we have, and I want to live each day to the fullest.

aging-gracefully

 

Touch My Wounds

“Then He said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believing.’” John 20:27

I love Gospel stories that are as graphic as the one of Jesus inviting Thomas to touch his wounds. I can easily picture the scene and imagine the event unfolding. I place myself in that room, a bystander, watching the interchange between Jesus and Thomas.

I imagine Thomas’ reaction—the embarrassment at having been called out in front of his friends, not to mention that touching physical wounds can be revolting. I visualize the reactions of the people in the room, the relief of the other apostles that they had not been singled out by Jesus.

Then I am standing in front of Jesus, and my stomach clenches at the thought of being challenged as Thomas was challenged.

But I know that I am like Thomas with his doubting attitude. “Prove it,” is often my position. I fear being seen as gullible and tend not to commit until I can see with my own eyes. In common parlance, I have trust issues.

Thomas believes once he has seen Jesus’ wounds; and I wonder if that sense of certainty held or if he went back to being a doubter on his next encounter with something incredulous. I know that for me, one event of trusting has not necessarily led to another.

It is often difficult for me to move beyond my skepticism when I encounter something that seems implausible. I have to process my incredulity, push past my doubt and actually decide to believe. Usually, I have to act “as if” I believe—until I do believe. Acting “as if” is a tool which has helped me many times.

I do notice one big difference between Thomas and me in this scenario. Just three days earlier, Thomas had betrayed Jesus by fleeing the scene of Jesus’ crucifixion; and yet his position is somewhat arrogant (“Unless I see…I will not believe.” John 20:25).

In Thomas’ place, no matter how unbelievable the story may have been, I would have hoped it was true, silently prayed for it to be true, so that I could apologize for my betrayal. When I am the one who has betrayed someone, I am filled with self-loathing at the knowledge of my treachery, and I long to be forgiven. I usually beg for forgiveness; I grovel.

In Thomas’ place, no matter how skeptical I might have been at the tale the others were telling about Jesus’ appearance, I am pretty sure I would have kept that to myself—hoping the story was true so that I could apologize for my cowardice and be given another chance.

 

 

Palm Sunday

When I was fifteen years old, I remember thinking, “One day I will write a book and the first line will be: ‘From the time I was eight years old, I knew that God had called me in a special way.’” I did not know how or why God had called me, but I knew it to be true. God had somehow touched me and that touch had made me a bit different.

I was probably most aware of this difference on Palm Sunday. Each year, as the story of Jesus’ passion was read during Mass, my two brothers squirmed and fidgeted, shifting their weight, leaning on the pew in front of us, obviously bored and wanting to sit down. I, on the other hand, was enraptured. This was the Sunday I anticipated all year, the reading I loved the most. I savored every word of the story and imagined myself in every scene.

When the crowds cried, “Crucify him,” I wanted to cover my ears and scream, “NO!” I imagined Jesus mocked and betrayed and ultimately abandoned. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he pleads to his silent father. I cried for him every time I heard the story.

I would be annoyed with my brothers for their distracting fidgeting. How could they not get the significance of this story? How could they not understand what was happening? “Boys!” I used to think dismissively.

But, by the time I was fifteen, I realized it was not about their being boys. It was about me and my connection with this story, and I realized that I had a relationship with God that was different from my brothers.

I loved going to church, not just on Palm Sunday, but every Sunday. I loved the quiet of it, the smell of candles and incense, the peace. I hungered for connection with God. “I could live here,” I used to think.

My love of church continued throughout my life, but it wasn’t until about fifteen years ago that I gained a deeper insight into my connection with the passion story.

It was Palm Sunday and I was processing into church with my palm branch, just as I had done every year before that. But this particular Palm Sunday, my body resisted entering the church. It was as if I was literally walking with Jesus and wanted him to stop. “Don’t go,” I wanted to say to him, knowing the story that was about to play out. I started to cry before I even got to the church doors. “Don’t go.” But the procession continued and I was carried along inside, tears streaming down my face.

In that moment, I recognized my close identification with Jesus as an innocent victim, betrayed and forsaken; and I realized that I was crying for eight-year-old self.