Thursday, March 04, 2010

Absorbing the Cost

I haven't posted in quite a while, though I have shown up here and there in the comments sections of a few blogs.

The truth is that, besides being insanely busy and out of town quite a bit, I simply haven't felt desirous of blogging. There's too much going on in my head to pluck out an idea and flesh it out.

I've also had to learn yet another lesson in the school of forgiveness, a lesson inflicted upon me by a repeat offender....and it has been difficult. The gift of consistent forgiveness is taking its toll on me and each time I have to give comes with more reluctance and pain and is harder to summon.

As I have had to sift through everything that I've been feeling, looking for the right way forward, I can't escape the fact that relationships, families, and society itself cannot survive without people who are willing to absorb the pain and consequences caused by other people.

As the saying goes--an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth will leave the whole world blind and toothless.

Forgiveness isn't fair. When we forgive, it's costing us something. Sometimes the price is light and simply a matter of releasing annoyance with another person, but sometimes the price cuts to the center of who you are and the "pound of flesh" extracted for payment is your heart.

The refusal of forgiveness causes its own collateral damage either because of the anger and resentment simmering below the surface, or because not forgiving allows the pain inflicted upon us to continue working its way through those around us. Like a tsunami heading for an unprotected shore, sin and its after-effects threaten to wipe everything out. Forgiveness becomes a shield against the coming tidal wave, taking on the full force of what's coming in order to protect the populated village in danger of being devastated.

Thinking of forgiveness in such noble, heroic terms doesn't make it less of a deep sacrifice.

At each point of intense forgiveness I have had to surrender some part of myself....letting go of idealized dreams and hopes connected to that person, or situation. Sometimes it seems as if there is little left to let go if I am scraping the bottom of the barrel of my hopes and dreams looking for some small scrap to offer up.


DH and I spent last weekend finishing up fixing the garage to my father's house. It was the last major project left in this process and as I scraped old paint and prepared to caulk some cracks where drywall met drywall, I discovered that hidden behind this upper section of drywall was more termite damage. I inserted a screwdriver into the crack and felt it push through rotted, decimated wood and instantly teared up.

It wasn't over. I wasn't "done" with this house. I couldn't sell this house with this going on beneath the drywall.

I was filled with anger at my father who I know had put up this drywall to purposely hide this damage. I was filled with frustration at his chronic procrastination, denial of the seriousness of the situation, and the high likelihood that his solution to this mess was to cover it up and let someone else deal with.

That someone turned out to be me.

That's the way that it works. Our actions frequently fall back on the people around us who are innocent bystanders.

I stood on the paint-covered step-ladder with my head in my hands and felt that pang of knowing I was going to have to pay the price for someone else's bad decisions again. I couldn't sell the house and pass those consequences onto an innocent, unsuspecting victim. I could let someone know up front about the damage, and take a huge hit on the value of the house, undermining all of the hard work and investment of time and money we have put into this house.

Or....I could hold onto this house that I never wanted, rent it out until there was enough money to make repairs, and then sell it.

I wouldn't be "done". I wouldn't benefit from the house in any significant way for a couple of years. I would continue to bear the responsibility of handling this mess.

Another situation calling for me to "fix" something I didn't cause.

Lately my faith seems non-existent. Maybe not non-existent, but so different and foreign in nature to what it used to be that it feels wholly "other" to me. And yet in the midst of the emotional turbulence I feel, I sense those themes of Christ's forgiveness, suffering, and perseverance moving through me. As I contemplate the chaos caused by others, I see Christ. I hear "Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God."

So, I try. I try to be a peacemaker. I try to reconcile what I face in a way that will be beneficial to everyone.

I'm hoping I don't fail.

1 comment:

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I feel your pain, sister, though my run of similar events was over a decade ago.

Forgiveness is much easier once people stop sinning against us. We still have to re-forgive as the feelings rise again, but they are on a diminishing course. When someone is adding new material - almost invariably identical material - to their sins against us, that death to self is quite real. When Christians talk about death to self we usually blithely talk about our self-centeredness and own sins needing to die. But in real life, some other parts of us that were okay, weren't sinful, are attached to the parts that must die. The surgery isn't clean this side of heaven.

And so it really is unfair, not just a feeling of unfairness because of our own selfishness. We don't always get to look back and say "ah, I'm a better person for it." Often it is parts of us better, parts of us worse - time and energy (and charm, and politeness) that could have been given to our families and other deserving persons instead, for example.

I can't wait until I'm wise enough to understand how it's all for my benefit. Not there yet.