A few months back, through my many conversations with people about their lives and relationships, I started to notice something being talked about over an over again — the need for forgiveness — and a real dilemma on how to get to a place of forgiveness. Some people need to forgive others. Some needed forgiveness themselves. It seemed to me that many of us struggle with this idea of forgiveness. So I decided that for Lent this year, I would dedicate my blog to the topic of forgiveness.
Desmond Tutu said it best:
“We are all broken. And because of our brokenness, we hurt each other.”
It’s as simple as that.
Lent is a time to heal our brokenness. It’s not a time to beat ourselves up, or wallow in our guilt or self loathing. And, as I have said a zillion times, it’s not a self improvement plan. Lent a time to reflect on the ways we are broken, and how th brokenness has separated us from God and from each other. it’s a time to turn to God who loves us passionately and unconditionally, and who desires nothing less that wholeness and healing for us, and ask God to shoe us hoe to heal.
But many of us struggle with that because we have some crazy images of God. We don’t see God as the one who loves us unconditionally, or the one who wants healing and wholeness for the whole world. Somewhere along the path of life, someone or something taught us a distorted view of God. and that view has made trusting this loving God difficult. Here are some of the ways we see God:
God as Cosmic cop – waiting for you to do something wrong so he can punish you – the Gotcha God!
Not quite good enough God – God will love me when I stop drinking, or get all As, or when I am a better mother, or better spouse – but you never quite get to good enough, because nothing you do is ever good enough in this God’s eyes.
God as the cosmic mother’s breast – gives perpetual succor and requires nothing from you, like a baby at its mother’s breast. Doesn’t make for very evolved adults!
Marquis de God: the sadistic, vicious God who likes to see people suffer or jump through hoops simply because he can.
God as disinterested observer – out there somewhere in the universe but not interested or involved with my life.
Nationalistic God – a god who blesses your nation at the expense of other nations and people, and calls on your nation to conquer or even exterminate other nations.
God the Bell Hop – available to give you whatever you want
God the Janitor – just there to clean up your messes.
God the Master of Ceremonies – must be present for every baptism, bar mitzvah, wedding or funeral, but must leave people alone the rest of the time.
I’m sure there are others that you can think of. There are a million of them! And they all get in the way of experiencing the love of a God who wants life in all its fullness for us. Without an understanding or trust in a loving God, it is hard to take the first step toward forgiveness of others and forgiveness of ourselves. Last week in my sermon, I invited the parish to think about what their image of God was. Do they have any of those crazy images of God? Many of us have had them at on time or another. And many of us grow out of them. But every so often, especially at times of real vulnerability, that old image rears its ugly head and keeps us from trusting the goodness that is all around us.
So here’s the question: What is your image of God? Who gave it to you? Does it serve you well at this point in your life? if the answer to that question is “no”, then its time to give that image of God back to whoever or whatever gave it to you and to start new. Lent is a perfect time to do that.
i invited my parish to take a first step toward doing just that by doing the following:
Think of a situation in your life that is very difficult for you– something that really has you conflicted about how to handle it. Ask yourself” What would God have me do in this situation?” THen substitute the word “love” for the word”God” and ask yourself: “what would love have me do in this situation?” Not the hearts and flowers Valentine’s Day kind of love. The kind of love of a devoted parent who wants even good thing for their child; the kind of parent who knows that sometimes telling the child “no” is the most loving thing they can do for their child; the kind of parent who will see their child through whatever comes, no matter what, to help them grow into wholeness and health. That kind of love. Because that kind of love and God are one in the same. THAT is who God is. THAT i the God who wants to walk with you trough this Lent and bring you to a place f healing and forgiveness.
I hope you will follow this blog with me through Lent as we explore the complexities of forgiveness.