HURT

Lent 8 ~ The Hidden Race

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          I went over the edge today. I saw it clearly, I knew I was heading there. And yet, I refused to stop. Yesterday, I felt God was asking me permission to wound me with His word. I didn’t know what it would mean for me except that when a word like ‘wound’ is used, it is never going to be easy or pleasant. I knew it would hurt and I was so afraid.

          And yet, I could not seem to hide from that invitation to open myself as never before. Shrinking within myself, not wanting it a bit, I found myself saying, I need to die to myself.

          And then, feeling like I was throwing myself off a building, I offered,

Thy will be done.

Wound me.

          He is a God of His Word. Wound me He did – by wounding my child. There had been an athletics race and my child had given till there was nothing left to give, and yet had been crushed.

          My anger at what God had allowed to happen was beyond fury. I know nobody will stand on my side in this. Some day even I might see the unreasonableness of my emotions and response. But at that very moment, I plumbed the depths of disappointment that so much of heart and soul training from this child who had been so easily vanquished before but who fought to overcome deep-rooted weaknesses, had now ended in dismal failure.

          Because, at the root of my falling was the fear that my child might turn away from the God trusted and relied on for strength and grace to persevere.

          I was so afraid that this result would lead to a spiritual catastrophe – the beginning of the turning away from God.

          I  had asked to be wounded – I hadn’t asked for my child to be wounded – and to be wounded in this way. The sheer unfairness of it drove me out of myself. I flung myself at God. Not in humility but in cold flaming anger.

          I didn’t hold back. But I kept it hidden because if I was headed for hell, I didn’t want my children to see and to learn of that dark road from their mother. Within my heart I faced God in all my ugliness. Honestly, even Adam and Eve had the sense to search for leaves to cover their nakedness. I, on the other hand, couldn’t be bothered. I didn’t try to be what I wasn’t and probably never will.

          And I told God so. I don’t have the faith for this blow You’ve dealt me, I told Him bitterly.

          At that moment, I recalled this from In Sinu Jesu,

When you come before Me and wait upon Me in silence, you are, in effect, allowing Me, when I choose and in the way I choose, to wound you…

Expect Me, then, to speak to you, to console you, and to enlighten you…

          My anger was so cold and deep that I didn’t want God’s consolation. Nevertheless, I turned to Him in my heart, saying, Console not me, but my child. I was so far away from God to be able to accept His consolation, but I knew my child needed it and I hadn’t the power to give it.

          I then went to comfort my sobbing child. Faced with such depth of young heartbreak  and disappointment, I demanded in my heart, Give me the words for my child. Tell us why this had to happen.

          The plea had barely left my heart when my eyes were taken to a small bookmark pinned to the wall.

I have fought the good fight,

I have finished the race,

I have kept the faith.        ~      2 Timothy 4:7

          I had never noticed that bookmark before. But I didn’t even need to ponder the familiar words. The moment my eyes fell upon them, their meaning for the sadness silvered into my heart.

          There had been two races that day. One that we all saw and watched.

          And there was another – hidden from physical sight, where God was the judge of the race of heart, will and all things hidden from human eyes.

          My child had failed in the first race.

          But in the eyes of God, my child was victor in the race that mattered the most – the hidden one.

 

 

 

 

Wolf~Sheep

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41Then He will say to those on His left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you never gave me food, I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, lacking clothes and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.”  44 Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty, a stranger or lacking clothes, sick or in prison, and did not come to Your help?”

45 Then He will answer, “In truth I tell you, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to Me.”  ~ Matthew 25 : 41 – 45

          It is far easier to seek and save the ones who are visibly maimed, wounded….their eyes and stance beseeching us to rescue them from their pain.

          Unfortunately, the sheep we are called save through our love and mercy do not always look like they are in need of saving. Too often, they seem well-fed, very secure, and downright bent on making our lives a misery.

          After a wounding some days back, I have been careful to give the snare of expressing my hurt to others, as wide a berth as possible. I hurt very much that day that I had willfully cast aside the Cross in favour of human comfort. I vowed to never step into that fog again.

          And I didn’t yesterday when the sheep chose to be difficult. I held my tongue. I chose to comfort others affected by these recalcitrant and insensitive types. I thought I did pretty well.

           I felt smug.

          And then, I walked right back into the fog at the edge of the cliff.

          While I managed to absorb the stings of yesterday, and not give them the airing I craved, it was a full tournament inside my head and heart. I steamed and stewed and plotted and schemed. My prayers were about me telling God what needed to be done, the amount of pain they needed, the kind of pain that was best, and just where to strike.

          Oh, and all interspersed with prayers of Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, of course. All for the sheep’s own good. That they see the light.

          I returned home to an unusually quiet evening of winds that roamed the tree paths in a muted dirge. It felt as if the leaves were holding their breath. I was not in a turmoil. Yet, there was some disquiet within that was hard to dislodge. When the birdcalls of a waning sunset began to rise, a Hand rested on my soul and firmly turned it to face a Light.

In so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to Me.

          This I didn’t want to hear. I fought against the words the Unseen hand wrote on my heart. I marshalled every argument against the Light that fell on my failing. I justified my hidden response of vengeance.

          Through it all, the Light shone on, strong and unwavering. In so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to Me.

          When I had exhausted the last of my fight, I sank and wrote this in the air before me~ I have failed Thee. Yet again. Because I knew the truth. Not a whit of mercy had I shown those who needed it most. Most easily did I dispense mercy and forgiveness to the suffering sheep who looked the part – wounded and in pain, but for those who looked more wolf than sheep, I unsheathed a sword of a totally different kind.

          Yet, I realize now that it is these who need my willful mercy. These wolf-sheep, with the snarling and feral demeanour that hides the wounded and bleeding sheep within them. Whose plaintive bleat for help is papered over by polished confidence, arrogance and sometimes, outright cruelty towards others.

          Wolf-sheep don’t invite our mercy easily. If anything, we feel mercy should be extended to us, not them, because it is we who suffer from their bites. But nowhere in the Golden Book are we allowed the comfort of retreating from the call to love just because we have been hurt.

32 If you love those who love you, what credit can you expect? Even sinners love those who love them. ~ Luke 6: 32

          For every hurt endured, Christ suffered each one first. Long before I ever knew grief, He carried the wounds of every soul to the point of death on the sacred Cross. To give me a Light so pure and bright that I cannot evade but follow.

          I must go where I do not wish. To love the sheep that wear the coat of wolves. 

Rain for a Fire

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          For days, I had been in a pot-o’er-the-fire, in a stew of my own making: I had thoughtlessly spoken and hurt someone. I felt wretched, yet, in my sin, I boiled more over the repercussions than over my wrongdoing. Trying to douse the flames within, I swam from harbor to harbor, running from the fire seas. Favourite prayers. Favourite saints. Rosary.

          But it seemed like heaven had chosen to maintain a stony stance against me.

          When you hurt someone, you must expect to get hurt back, for that is how many of the wounded manage their pain. Yet, anchored firmly within my obtuseness was the expectation that when I kick, others should absorb. That when I hurt others, even unintentionally, it is the ready roses of forgiveness I deserve.

          As the wild afternoon winds reached for their evening stoops, no rose of peace made root within me. If anything, the tempests scaled the highs. Wearied by the firestorm, I went to sleep by heaven’s door for a while. St Pio, St Joseph, help me, help me, help me, I prayed, before I sank into the knotted nap of one suffering the consequences of upsetting others.

          Roused shortly after, I expectantly reached for the peace I thought would be mine. Instead, heaven remained as closed as before, my hands came away empty. And restlessness resumed its keening. Deep in the frenzied whipping of guilt and hurt, I sought discernment and escape. I went to my favourite blogs. I returned to pearls tucked within the folds of precious mails. I roamed and searched the plains for someone to tell me I had done no wrong.

          I read of clouds and of rain, and longed for the hope of wetness to rend to ashes this terrible fire.  I traced those words and others, and longed for the peace and strength they proffered. Slowly, ever so slowly, since this all began, I learned to stoop, to humble lines in prayer.

          I have sinned against You, I wrote on my heart. I have sinned against You.

          As the nightwinds sang its hymn, I sensed a door crack open, and little leaves wearing orange floated quietly in. One by one, they softly settled on my spirit, and turned me towards Truth. When I made to move away from what I found hard to admit, the winds blew in more leaves through blogs and words I read that night, until they encircled me in the vine of Truth that held the rain of peace I sought for my flames.

          I knew then what I had to do. I stopped trying to escape flames I had stirred to life through my wrong. I sank to the ground, and began to pray the Rosary, weaving through its ancient prayers my own litany of remorse ~ Forgive me, Jesus, for I have sinned. Forgive me, Jesus, for I have sinned. Through each Sorrowful Mystery, I held Jesus’ Feet as the woman once did, yearning for the same forgiveness she received.

          On the last rose~bead, I felt the first sprinkles of rain….

LENT 19 ~ When The Red Goes

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          From my waking, all through to the waning hours of sunset, the gentle hymn, Bread of Life, played in my consciousness. I began my day in a cheery gentleness, with a skip in my step, but soon my blue-gold day was snagged by the thorns of difficult human behavior, and I had to bite down my anger and frustrations.

          I failed more than I succeeded because not once did I bring God into the redness of my day.

          Back home, I was safe from the stings of the workplace. Yet, I felt scratched. Not from the challenges of the day, but from the angry thoughts that I had allowed to nestle and burgeon unchecked within me. Anger was now gone, but for the hours it found a willing home in me, it left me a parting gift of sand in my wounds for my sinfulness.

Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools. ~ Ecclesiastes 7:9

          Sore. Nettled.

          So, this is what fool  feels like when the red of anger has gone, and the Holy Spirit vexed.

1. Bread of life and cup of hope,
we come as gift to you.
Change our hearts; fill us with peace.
Transform our lives anew.
Open our eyes so that we might see
your presence in one another.
Your life, poured out in love today,
unites us all in you.

2. Loving Lord, Creator God,
open our eyes to see
the good that lives in each of us,
that called the world to be.
And when we fail to see the good,
when friendships falter and crumble,
give us the courage to forgive
that we may live in peace.

3. Living Word, O Son of God,
your love shows us the way
that we may live in harmony,
and from you never stray.
Wipe all oppression from our midst;
give us a love for all people.
Your song of justice sing in us,
to live for peace today.

LENT 13 ~ Be Patient In Humiliations

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          Yesterday was the day for me to burn in someone’s fire. I was asked to bow before someone and to submit to a will not mine and certainly not the Lord’s. Having lived most of my life in that exact same position, and only recently finding the courage not to, I wasn’t about to make another huge knot  that Mother Mary would have to undo all over again.

          So, I silently refused to step into the circle of human homage. And that unleashed the flames on me.

          I suffered in the tirade of thwarted intentions. Over and over, the flames leapt for me. I sat in the heart of it, unable to escape the line of fire. Any prayer thought was snatched away by the relentless flames.

          But by the waning rays of sunset, another, more unfortunate, fire had started in my beleaguered heart. I began to be consumed by fury at the injustice meted out to me. I made some weak stabs at prayer, but a more concerted effort went into planning fire darts to avenge this wrong to me.

          By nightfall, however, I had begun to weary. The anger raged as strong as ever, but this time, my soul fought back, refusing to bend in submission to this sin on my part. It raised a different tempest within me – the tempest of awareness. That tempest took away peace to teach me the consequences of my sin.

          I found that I could bear the searing pain of someone’s fire, but not the loss of peace in my soul. 

          So, I turned my heart determinedly to prayer. One after another, I called at all the harbours I knew, every prayer and bible verse, begging for respite from the storm. I know that no prayer is ever wasted, but I didn’t feel the soothing balm of comfort I sought. Restless and anxious, I learned anew then, the lesson learned over and over by wilful souls – everything in His time, not  ours.

          I ploughed on, nevertheless.

          It was then that I recalled my father, Padre Pio. I thought of his anger, how different it had been from mine. But he had known anger, understood the familiarity of struggling against it. He would know what help I needed to extinguish its wounding flames.

St Pio, help me, St Pio help me, St Pio help me.

          By the closing of the night’s Rosary, the winds died down. But in unfortunate possession of a nature that can seethe on demand, I remained suspicious of the calm.

          Awakening in the morning, these words came, brought on the dew wet breath of dawn ~

Be  patient  in  humiliations.

          Not trials. Not challenges. Not difficulties. But – humiliations. That alone pointed to the heavenly origins of the counsel, because the seed of the firestorm of which I was a victim was the very humiliating  public scourging I was receiving for daring to break ranks, and to stand apart and alone for my faith and principles.

Be  patient  in  humiliations.  Love from the heart of heaven for the storm in mine.

          I pick up my cross again, but this time, with a gentled spirit and a renewed strength.

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BOWLS OF PRAYER

But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you  ~  Matthew 5:44

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          For me this week, that was too much for the Lord to ask of me for it has been a week of struggle, tiredness, dryness of spirit. The scent of jasmines, white and wild, did not touch my spirit, nor did the gold of sun rays through green boughs. The hurt of accusations and unjust, selfish demands placed on all the members of my work organization weighed far more than anything else. I hurt for myself, and I hurt for others. With every word my superiors pronounced upon us, I saw shoulders stoop more. I saw anger in tightening features. I saw the light dim in many eyes. No chance to pause and draw breath, to cry a little and heal. Others waiting for us. Others leaning on us. The journey set before us still be to traversed.

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          And yet, I wished there was some place I could retreat to. Not for long, not forever. Just a wee while. Somewhere hidden in the tangles of wild. Away from explanations. Away from demands. Just to rest and find myself. Some place where roses bloomed differently; where music was the wind in the grasses, the buzz of brown bees.

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          But there was none. No such place. No time. The clock ticked on.

The anger and hurt bore down stronger. Frustration welled and swelled. Within me. Within others. Like a bitter flame, in a short while, it seared and burned up what little pools of charity and compassion I had in me for those who persecuted us.

And then, in the midst of that burn, a memory came :

…..golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of saints.    ~ Revelations 5:8

          Pray …..Not anger…. not in revenge…. Pray them to Me

          But I didn’t have an ounce of charity left in me to pray for my enemies. I chaffed against the Lord’s call. I didn’t want to lift my enemies to heaven. I wanted them anywhere BUT in heaven!

          A whisper touched my soul….Place them in bowls… and lift them to heaven.

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          And so I have. Laid out the bowls in my mind’s eye. Four in a row. Earthen bowls, for I am no saint, and my prayer no incense. Everyone who has hurt me and others, I placed in bowls. One for each. Floated them on prayer, towards Heaven.