Some days I have so many words. Some days I have almost none. Today feels like one of those almost-no- words kind of days.
I normally avoid writing when I have nothing to say but today I’m showing up to see what might happen.
Years ago, I had compassionate therapist. She used using her spiritual side to help people remember their own spiritual resources. I was drawn to her because many things in my life needed fixing. I wanted to her to fix frustrating and irritating people. I wanted a fix for how to do full-time ministry while also being a good wife and mother. I needed her to quickly fix layers of unprocessed grief in my life and more. I was hoping she’d be good because she had lots of work to do outside of me, in my opinion.
Over time, she gave me tasks to do…reach out to this person, journal about that loss, face your feelings about x, y and z. I remember many time staring at her and asking, seriously, How am I supposed to do that? What you are asking me to do is impossible. Lots of time it had to do with facing enormous problems, leaning into them, forgiving someone I could not imagine forgiving or even letting go, I can’t count the times I asked her if she was kidding me and you know what? She never ever was.
She’d then gently remind me of what I was forgetting. She’d say, Cindy, of course you can’t do that on your own. You are right. You will only do it with God’s help.
Ahh, those three words, with God’s help. When our older son was in high school, he was searching for a Bible verse to guide him in sports and life. He chose, Nothing is impossible with God. (Luke 1:37) It served him well during all kinds of impossible times.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about forgiveness. Have you noticed how much better we are at blame these days than forgiveness? Everyone has become so prickly and angry, including me. I often no longer understand what other people are thinking, where they are getting their information and what is driving them. Most of the time I’m acutely aware that is exactly what they are thinking about me.
When you’ve been hurt, insulted, misunderstood, accused or wronged, forgiveness is the most impossible thing to consider. My faith keeps challenging me to see each angry difficult person as a child of God and to assume they are doing their best, not their worst. My faith reminds me to lay down arms and let God fight the battle. I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around softening what I feel rather than feeding only rage. When people hurt your family members, it is even more difficult.
This week I read again about the shooting in 2015 at Mother Emanuel AME Church, a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, Maybe you remember a young white man entered the church to study the Bible with a small group gathered there. They welcomed him, answered all his questions, studied together and then as they closed in prayer, he shot and killed nine of the attendees. It was later reported he hoped to ignite a race war. He also said he almost didn’t do it, they were so kind to him.
What happened later still stuns me. At the trial, during the victim impact statements, the family members of the deceased, stood up in court, looked the killer in the eye and one by one forgave him.
Nadine Collier, the mother of one of the victims said, I forgive you. You took something precious from away from me. I will never be able to hold her (my daughter) again. But I forgive you and have mercy on your soul…. (Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation by Latasha Morrison, Chapter 6: The Healing Balm)
How does this kind of forgiveness happen in our rage infused, divided world? With God’s help.
How does this kind of grace happen in our families, communities, work places? With God’s help.
How do you make it through deep grief, a diagnosis, a challenge you never signed up for? With God’s help.
I stay connected to God because so much in this life is absolutely impossible for me to do on my own, I have made it through hard things because God helped me, provided, empowered me and gave me honest traveling companions.
Because I‘m human I forget all the time that I do not have to do these things alone. I need God’s Word to remind me. I need helpers and friends to speak those three words out loud to me over and over. I need spiritual disciplines in place that take me beyond myself and my own solutions.
When I’m out of words, I just need three…with God’s help.
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three grown children, breast cancer survivor and Mosa to Keller, Pace and River. You can read more blogs, sign up for Cindy’s Inner Circle monthly email and see upcoming events at http://www.drcindyryanblog.com.