Sunday, April 20, 2014


All my adult life I've been focused on family.  Raising kids has been a joy, one to be sure that is not unmingled with tears.  But whether this was a needed distraction or whether it was by instinct, it was natural to focus on them rather than myself.  While their birthdays are more fun than a barrel of monkeys, I actually don't like my birthday.  Not because of any fear of mortality, but because I'm uncomfortable with people making a fuss over me.  I'm uncomfortable being in the position of receiving, rather than giving, gifts.

And so to the greatest gift of all, Grace.  I find it's easy to forgive others their trespasses, and while it's my obligation to do so, it mostly comes without too much fuss.  But forgiving my own trespasses, aye - there's the rub.  Looking inward, not outward.  Shunning - at least for a moment - the active in favor of the reflective. That's not so easy.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds ...
- Theodore Roosevelt, the "Paris Speech"
It's hard to stop thinking like that, even for a moment.  Duty calls, and at least with me Duty is not lightly to be shirked.  Especially for family.  This makes it easy to focus outwards, and easy to not focus inwards.  Because that inward gaze is hard, and might lead to the realization that you need to give that gift of Grace to yourself.
Stop trying to protect, to rescue, to judge, to manage the lives around you . . . remember that the lives of others are not your business. They are their business. They are God’s business . . . even your own life is not your business. It also is God’s business. Leave it to God. It is an astonishing thought. It can become a life-transforming thought . . . unclench the fists of your spirit and take it easy . . . What deadens us most to God’s presence within us, I think, is the inner dialogue that we are continuously engaged in with ourselves, the endless chatter of human thought. I suspect that there is nothing more crucial to true spiritual comfort . . . than being able from time to time to stop that chatter . . .
- Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets

That's uncomfortable.  That's receiving, not giving the gift.  So much easier to turn towards Roosevelt's arena.
... who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. 
 There is a pride to be taken in that, but alas we all know where that that pride can lead.  Men particularly are raised to be this way (or were when I was young).  Likely this is following their natural inclination: to be a man is to be alone.  Suck it up, cupcake, you gotta do what you gotta do.  And besides, looking inwards is uncomfortable.  Better to focus outwards.
But there is another truth, the sister of this one, and it is that every man is an island. It is a truth that often the tolling of a silence reveals even more than the tolling of a bell. We sit in silence with one another, each of us more or less reluctant to speak, for fear that if he does, he may sound like a fool. And beneath that there is of course the deeper fear, which is really a fear of the self rather than of the other, that maybe the truth of it is that indeed he is a fool. The fear that the self that he reveals by speaking may be a self that the others will reject just as in a way he has himself rejected it. So either we do not speak, or we speak not to reveal who we are but to conceal who we are, because words can be used either way of course. Instead of showing ourselves as we truly are, we show ourselves as we believe others want us to be. We wear masks, and with practice we do it better and better, and they serve us well –except that it gets very lonely inside the mask, because inside the mask that each of us wears there is a person who both longs to be known and fears to be known. In this sense every man is an island separated from every other man by fathoms of distrust and duplicity.
- Frederick Beuchner, The Hungering Dark

The greatest lies that we tell, we tell to ourselves.  This Easter day reminds us to stop being so damn selfish.  That Grace was give to everyone, including us.  It's all right to unclench the fists of the spirit and forgive even yourself.


ASM826 said...

It is very hard to forgive ourselves. Who knows better than me what total shit I am? how many times I have failed to do what I should have done? How many times I have done what I should not have?

But you are right. Even Judas would have been forgiven. His final mistake was despair, not believing that he was loved. And so this Grace is for us all, least we too make the mistake of believing our sins and our faults are somehow special enough to rate more condemnation than everyone else's.

Happy Easter, my brother.

Old NFO said...

Well said BP, and truly worth thinking about. Happy Easter.

Borepatch said...

ASM826, without Judas, where would be our salvation? Happy Easter you you and yours.

OldNFO, happy Easter.

Mike Brahier said...

I do believe that mindful breathing is the order of the day.

May the Borepatch clan and all your readers enjoy a loving and fulfilling Easter.

Six said...

Thanks for this BP. I still struggle with Mom. Could I have done more? Did I fail? Was it my fault? Is she in Hell and did I help put her there?

I still don't have any answers.