A few weeks ago, I was sharing a troubling situation with a friend of mine. The incident had occurred nine months earlier. I’d found a way to navigate the situation and I’d made some degree of peace with current circumstances. But the root of it all was still bothering me. The details aren’t relevant for this post. Suffice it to say, my family and I — my kids in particular — had been treated unjustly.
I’ve had a lot of conversations with people I trust about this issue and have come to the conclusion that my anger is justified. The human part of me is satisfied with this. The trouble is, that makes it harder to see where to draw the line in thinking and talking about the whole ordeal. Humility is a challenge here. I’ve tried to forgive, but towards the end of summer, there was some regression on that front.
I tried not to vent or gossip in relaying all that happened to my friend, but to be honest, I’m still pretty angry about it, and I know some of that came through.
When I was (eventually) finished telling my friend (who happens to be a seminarian) the events and conversations, the first thing he said was that he was concerned with how bothered I still was by this. Yes, he said, the party in question was wrong and the explanations given were ridiculous. But why hadn’t I been able to really move on?
The next thing he suggested was that I pray for those involved. I’d been trying, but recently had given in to feeling sorry for myself and being angry with them. Of course he understood that this is a challenge, but then he put a spin on it that I hadn’t considered before:
Who was going to pray for these people about this misunderstanding? Might I be the only one?
Suddenly, praying for them wasn’t just a nice thing for me to do, but an obligation as a Christian. I knew they were in the wrong. I’d tried to express that. I hadn’t gotten anywhere. So now, I needed to take it—to take them—to God. If I didn’t do it, perhaps no one else was going to.
In the past, when I’d get upset about the situation, I was sometimes able to say in my heart, “Lord, I give this to you. I pray for these people. I hope they can see things the way I know you do.” A lot of times, there was a good deal of resentment underneath the surface, ad undercurrent of “But how in the world can they not see this the way you do? It’s so obvious!”
With the new perspective offered me via my friend and the Holy Spirit, I saw that the forgiveness God asks of me goes beyond words. It goes beyond taking a deep breath and restraining my tongue in conversation, though that’s important, too. Forgiveness means making an active effort for the good of those who have hurt me and my family.
Perhaps I should have seen all this before. It’s what Jesus did on the cross. It’s a giving of self, even when the other doesn’t really deserve it. But I couldn’t see it before; I couldn’t see the opportunity God had given me in the midst of the hurt. Thank God I do now. I ask for your prayers to help me pray for these individuals and this situation.
I also ask for your prayers for my seminarian friend and for all priests, religious, and those in formation. They, too, have made a considerable sacrifice — one greater than mine — for the good of others, to the glory of God. May that be an inspiration and an encouragement for us all.
Copyright 2017 Lindsay Schlegel