This one is a doozy! I was out walking this morning in the lush arboretum not far from my house with my doggie. As is often the case, I had my earphones on. I was listening to a series of talks given by Richard Rohr (the Franciscan priest) last year at a college somewhere. At the end a student asked him, “You say you have to be free to receive the Lord’s Love. How do you get free?”
I held my breath. This has been my question and heart’s desire for so long. True freedom from what others think, what I think, what I feel, what weighs me down, seems so elusive to me. I have experienced it now and again, here and there, but how to live in that freedom for always…that is my question and heart’s desire.
Rohr’s answer: “It begins, I think, with forgiveness…forgiveness of God, Himself…forgiveness of yourself…forgiveness of your parents…and immediate forgiveness of those around you…You see the genius of God…forgiveness requires God…we have to throw ourselves into the arms of God…of your own willpower, you are incapable of doing it on your own. To put it simply: You will never grow in the spiritual life if you are withholding love, if there is one relationship you won’t forgive. You love God as much as you love your worst enemy.
He goes on to say that when we do allow God to takeover and forgive, we find ourselves “loving by a power not our own…loving the (previously) unlovable.” Here I need to take apart the word forgive and perhaps give it a little new meaning. I know for myself it is such a loaded concept that is mixed up with exonerate, pardon, forget, cancel out. I have begun to see the forgiveness that Jesus speaks of more like “letting go, surrender, just no longer carrying the heaviness that some event has for me. I have experienced this forgiveness before, certainly. There are some things I previously held unforgiven that I can look upon now without the pain or clenching. I might still be saddened by the event but it is somehow lighter and has no power, if that makes sense. But as you probably know forgiveness is lifelong call.
So back to the message I heard: You love God as much as you love your worst enemy. Yikes! That stings…truly bites at my soul. And at the same time, I feel its truth. Tears sting in my eyes at the realization that I hold onto past hurts and won’t let God have them…won’t let them go. I won’t surrender and stop hauling them around with me wherever I go. And I know that in so doing I am not becoming the person I am meant to be. Holding fast to my resentment of those enemies is blocking God’s healing Love. And as a result, my love is too small…still too small.
So what to do when I am powerless to do this on my own. Again, Rohr says we must “throw ourselves into the arms of God.” Practically for me this amounts to bringing this to God during my reflection time. I lay it all out, even though I know God knows. I acknowledge my limitations and weaknesses. And I sit with my desire for fullness.
In prayer I remind God that my love is too small. That my love cannot forgive on its own but God’s love know no bounds. Please, I add, I don’t want this old, putrid resentment to get in the way of who I can be in You! I desire freedom. I know God will answer this prayer.
Taking a cue from all the trees around me…surrendering!
(Just outside my front door)