The blows to our self-esteem that concern us are the constant, insidious attacks upon our self-image from the blame that we experience every day. Even though we don’t usually realize it consciously, our self-esteem is under a relentless bombardment of blame: blame from others; blame even from ourselves. These internal accusations simply devastate our self-esteem, because they make us feel ashamed and guilty. (James E. Sullivan, The Good Listener)
It’s the shrill cry of the atheist: Why believe in someone who just sits on his throne in Heaven and judges us?
It’s the even shriller cry of our souls when we look down and see the blood of others on our hands: How can I go before God — or those around him — when I am so dirty? And they are so clean?
We have all had parents. And relatives. And teachers. And administrators. People who frown. Sigh. Catch their breath. Look away.
We’ve been admonished. Condemned, to a greater and lesser degree.
And we’ve probably all been, at one time or another, blamed for something we didn’t even do. And have no real way to defend ourselves against the injustice of the judgment.
It’s your fault! Every parent knows the sound of that scream. Every person, even, who has scanned the daily headlines and sees the faces of starving children staring back at him.
I soundly believe that people will not face God, either on their own or in community, because of the guilt that burdens them. They doesn’t want to hear the sound of the blame, the “Christian” evaluation of his sins.
They don’t even want to be found guilty.
They may feel it. But it’s private, something to be kept to one’s self.
Please don’t look at me.
But, ironically, it’s this projection of what we do to one another onto God — making him the blamer — that is the wrongful blaming. It’s all your fault that we’re like this, we wail at him.
And it’s this fundamental misapprehension of God that catches my attention these days.
For me, it all starts — and, no doubt, ends — with the Lesson of Silence: In your words, you will find your willingness to serve God; in your silence, you will find your willingness to be served by God.
God, then, is an absolutely closed concept, an eternal of loop of service.
But we never, ever see it that way.
If we could understand God in that way — as one who is served and as one who serves — the handling of the events of our lives would become so much gentler.
Instead of this dynamic, it’s always about what we imagine is going back and forth between him and us that we focus on.
I’m wrong, or, You think I’m wrong. Why can’t I ever be right?
And yet what is right before our eyes, the actual design of God in this matter, we never see.
Take Mother Teresa. As a young woman she had an intimate, loving relationship with Jesus Christ. As an expression of her love for her lord, she went on to act on the visions she had received and began her own ministry.
And then, mystically speaking, her life went quiet. And her heart reacted to the silence. She took from it a feeling of rejection. She became confused. Heart-broken.
In your silence, you will find your willingness to be served by God.
So God comes to Mother Teresa, and he instructs her about her future path, and blesses her as she starts off with love in her heart.
And then, in silence, God serves her. According to Mother Teresa, miracles occurred on a daily basis. Her charges were always fed. Whatever she needed, she said, always found its way to her.
And yet the silence in which these miracles occurred troubled her.
So what happens when we do wrong? Or we find ourselves having to deal with such deep wrong that we feel corrupted by the association? Where is God then?
The faithful know the answer to this.
We know how our knees bend, or even how our prayers work.
We know that we can go to someone — someone who is a part of the church or even someone who we know will just listen to us — and we will find relief.
And then, ultimately, we know that absolution for our errors and misjudgments is available to us.
From God or from one of his hands on Earth.
So, from this we can see that blame really isn’t in God’s day-to-day planning for us.
In our words, we will find our willingness to serve God.
It’s always there: a way to redemption. It’s always there before us.
It is perhaps the most important thing that we can teach others: you can always be made clean in the love of God.
Not blamed. Not condemned.
Which is not to say that we won’t be held accountable for our decisions. For our transgressions.
But there is a difference that you can actually touch with your soul between the making of your mistake into a fault, something that is an expression of your character, and making it a tangle that can be released. The difference between a tangible symptom of who you are as a person, and the process of life that you are going through.
Rock vs. river.
In our silence, we will find our willingness to be served by God.
No matter how we feel. No matter how we judge ourselves. Blame ourselves. Hate ourselves.
All we need to do to know God is to be silent.
And be served.