And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. (Matthew 10:14)
I am planning to write one of these days my thoughts about the difference between spiritual growth and healing. It’s pacing there in the back of my mind somewhere, but other matters seem to be more eager to be played with.
So it seems that my life is all about dust these days, and the kicking-off thereof.
It all began with some writing. Two responses to the promptings of poetry. Followed by a challenge thrown down: Now Write About This! The challenge accepted. Mulled over.
I have not found the process of writing in response to someone else’s words “fun.” It’s more like becoming part of a delicate operation. Fingering the foreign object lodged where it should never have gotten. Watching the relief as it is lifted out of the body. The blood flowing again where it once flowed. The body’s repair mechanism stimulated and ready to do its job.
The result of these two writings have forced me to turn and look at myself in a way that I never have before.
First there is the illusion that I’ve carried around with me that I want to protect others from “me,” or from getting too close to me, because I’m mighty weird. And my weirdness has seriously affected the lives of some that I love dearly.
This is true. Absolutely true.
What is really, really, really true is that I want to protect myself.
That look that slides into someone’s eyes after they’ve stood next to me, or sat behind me, or watched me from front-on change the nature of the nature of the world around me.
Otherwise known as, Perform A Miracle.
It’s right there all spelled out in the Bible: How people responded to Jesus when he healed the sick, and whatnot.
See! Look what I can do!
Let’s kill him!
Luckily it’s never gotten to the point of death threats for me. Well, almost never.
But the hatred is there, nevertheless.
One of the writings mentioned above brought up an old and very buried memory. The saving of our two lives. Being sucked up into a bank, under a tree overhanging the river. Caught in its roots and the rocks that had formed around those roots. Under a canoe. Under water.
Then a resolve. Sweet and quiet. But a resolve, nonetheless.
And the people who had come to witness or help or fuss watched the resolution.
And looked about afterward, wondering what they just saw.
But the one under the canoe with me: Hatred.
All the fight in him drained completely.
No words. No resistance. No looks.
The relationship was over.
Now let me tell you what this means to me today.
Lent is approaching. So I have been having fun listening to suggestions about what to “do” for Lent. And I enjoyed very much the priest who told a story about a woman who, for each day of Lent, sent someone a thank-you note, an expression of gratitude. That charmed me. And I wanted to do something like that.
Instead, though, I came up with something similar but different: For the 40 days of Lent, I would forgive someone. I would make up a list of 40 people that I need to forgive, and “do” something towards that resolution.
And I thought about the looks of hatred that I have seen aimed at me over the years of my life, and I thought, Ah, ha. There is a place to find a list of people to forgive.
At first I figured I could come up with at least a half-dozen people who fit that category.
Within hours, I wondered what I would do with the overspill.
All those people who left my side, my life, because of their being a witness to me.
When I began to work on organizing this, I blamed myself for having these people hidden away in my psyche, reducing them to being trolls packed away in the caves of my life. I let the hatred remain. I didn’t do anything to work things out between us. Just let it resolve.
But then I remembered. My training.
When someone closes the door on you, walk on. It is the path in life that is important. A person closing a door on you is just life’s way of telling you where to go.
Kick the dust off your feet, in other words.
Do not pound on the door and ask to be readmitted.
Do not take it personally.
Do not go down the path, turn around, come back, and see if the door has reopened.
Follow your feet.
So I have lived this way.
You don’t want me? I’m gone.
Well, it turns out that while I may be gone from your life, you have not left mine.
I have carried you with me, like a pebble in my pocket. Not really there.
But there, nonetheless.
Here is something I read during one of my prayer sessions today. It’s about dirt and sandals:
The group [the church] is centered on Jesus – they are to carry his message to an unprepared world; they are being sent out on a mission. They have to let go of their securities – a fixed abode, workplace, possessions, money. They must trust that Jesus knows what he is doing; they also need the good will of those they visit. In return Jesus shares with them his authority over evil and his power to heal. Is that a fair exchange?
At first, I will admit, I got the answer very, very wrong. I thought, No, it isn’t fair what happens to the people under these conditions. No matter how much wisdom is being shared, how must exposure to God is being given. These people are still going through what they are going through.
When I realized my error, I went, Oops.
In a major way.
Of COURSE Jesus is the better deal. Always. No matter what we lose in the knowing.
Better deal all around.
So why, faced with this list of people who I never hurt, never really argued with, but was rejected by because of who I am, am I not convinced?
Walking on – kicking off that dirt – is supposed to train my heart not to grieve. To not be attached to people.
Except it did teach me not to be attached to any one person.
But not in the way God intended, I fear.
Instead of teaching me to walk into the world at all times with nothing in my hands, no resentment, no bitterness, I learned to carry each and every pebble. I learned to shield myself from the hatred. The screaming priests. The shooings away. The suddenly quiet telephone.
Now that I have come to care for someone, I have even gone to the trouble of pre-hating me. On his behalf.
Knowing it is just a matter of time before the door is finally slammed.
But not being sure that because of who I am today that I could handle it.
Aware that I am no longer the person who can just walk away from someone. Unable to focus on the path above everything else. And not just sit outside the door and weep.
So the big question that faces me today is whether or not I put God on my list for the 40 days of Lenten forgiveness.
And, if I do, do I make him just one number, or all 40?
Do I try to find a way to forgive him for making me who I am?
For training me?
Well, I say, Welcome to Lent.