Clearly the theme this week is cleaning out to make room. Not getting rid of old stuff for different stuff but the cleansing that removes what does not enrich me and making room for grace. Isn’t that what the gospel message is about?
So I wonder and grieve that we seem to have it all wrong. That our lives are made so much more difficult and painful by our (and I mean humanity in general) unwillingness to open ourselves to the rich experiences of life, joys and sorrows, and instead point at what is wrong with others. Our egos are in the driver’s seat and we have put away teachings of love and mercy.
Cleaning out my wallet I found a dollar bill. On the back someone had written “GOD IS GOOD” across the top. Next to it in different pen was the exclamation “NEVER” and written across the bottom “ ‘ GOD’ F—ed my life in the ass” I have no idea who wrote this painful lament and certain that the one who did was not aware that this was a prayer. So I prayed with her/him for God to make visible the love and mercy that is the only cure for this dis- ease with faith in a loving God.
What I am not certain of are the events and people who led this person to the belief that God is the one causing the pain. I can only imagine what those circumstances might have been. Perhaps parents or pastors who professed belief used God as a source of fear and punishment to keep the kids in line or judge their actions. Perhaps a modern day evangelist taught condemnation for divorce or homosexuality or the myriad of other human branded “sins” we commit. Or maybe this was a person of great faith who suffered a greater loss. Our moments of deep grief can have us shaking our fists at a God who would allow such pain.
Surrounded by a world of pain, it is a gift that I get to work in such a beautiful place at Quinipet on Shelter Island. Pondering my recent experience at an “Opening to Grace Retreat” as I walked on the beach, what flooded in was how much had been required for me to open to the God of all grace and compassion. The beach was quiet and deserted. The wind was calm and the sun warm. The water was clear and shimmered with greens and blues. It was after a storm and among the shells and driftwood there was so much garbage that had washed up on shore. I was amazed at the number of coffee stirrers, straws, bottle caps and ribbons. Articles of other’s celebrations now discarded carelessly or lost and then purged onto the shore during the storm. As I walked along cleaning up, the theme of cleaning out to make room came back to me. Streams of events and people who shaped my life and the awesome creator who will redeem all things….if we allow. The cross is the ultimate symbol for me of sacrifice for others sake and the deep painful wounds of ugly torture that were turned upside down to become Love. It is the deepest and greatest Love of all.
On this beach I have been able to reflect on the blessings in the pain. Memories of walking here with my children and granddaughter filled me with joy. Thoughts of those sisters in faith who walked with me here long ago filled me with gratitude. On retreat God helped me clean out the trash left in me by events and people and see the blessings and openness left behind. I pray that those who feel f…’d by God can open their hearts to Love. But mostly I pray that we stop pointing fingers, laying guilt and blame and begin to open our hearts in love and compassion to everyone.