Hand it over

When you forgive, you aren’t saying that what happened was okay. You aren’t saying that who did it to you was justified. However you are saying that it isn’t your place to exact judgment or revenge.

To continue to hold a grudge over something doesn’t punish the criminal, but yourself. You hold yourself hostage. It is better to give the situation over to God – the true judge – and let justice happen when and how it is best.

When you hand things that are too heavy over to God, you are not only lightening your load, you are also handing them over to the One who is the most able to handle them. Leave it with the expert – God. You don’t need to carry it anymore.

 

The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:19

19 Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord.

He is referring to the verses in Deuteronomy 32:35, where God says:

“Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay. In time their foot will slip, for their day of disaster is near, and their doom is coming quickly.”
Also, consider these words from Psalm 27:1-3

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation—

whom should I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life—

of whom should I be afraid?

2 When evildoers came against me to devour my flesh,

my foes and my enemies stumbled and fell.

3 Though an army deploys against me,

my heart is not afraid;

though a war breaks out against me,

still I am confident.

However, consider also the words of Jesus in Luke 23:34, when he was on the cross, being tormented and attacked –

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.”

He didn’t call on God to avenge.  He called on God to forgive. Now we often aren’t that spiritually evolved, especially when we are in the middle of the situation.  However, we aren’t alone in our struggles.  We have Jesus to help us.

 

 

(All Bible translations are HCSB.)

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Bus driver.

One time during the drum circle I was given the task of playing the bass drum. The bass drum holds the rhythm. The bass drum is the backbone of the whole thing. It sets the time and the tone. It has to be a consistent steady beat. It is what everybody else relies on.

Midway through something really amazing happened and a lot of people were in the center and they were singing and drumming together. It was really beautiful and I wanted to look at it, but I realized if I did then I would lose track of where I was.

I realized then that I was the bus driver. They were all enjoying the scenery. My responsibility was to driving the bus and keeping us all on track.

There was another person who was keeping the rhythm with me. Every now and then I’d lose track of where I was and I look over at him. The problem was that often he was holding his drum up so I couldn’t see his mallet hit. I couldn’t use his rhythm to find my own.

At that point I had to find the rhythm within the song that was already going on and just jump back in. The group had based itself on me but then I was basing myself on it. They didn’t really need me to keep it going but I felt the responsibility.

At another point, the facilitator came over and started to talk with me during the song. I got really frustrated and told her that I couldn’t talk to her and keep the rhythm going at the same time. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that I didn’t have to worry so much. I got the group started, but by then there was no way that they were relying on me. They couldn’t hear me at that point. They were doing it all very well on their own.

Which then leads to the next thought – why do I feel such a responsibility to keep things going? Why do I think that I’m in charge and have to control it? It is good to notice this and meditate on it. Some of it is rooted in my dysfunctional home life, then and now. I feel like I have to be the responsible one. I feel like if I don’t take care of things, they will all fall apart. Bills won’t get paid. There won’t be food in the house. No money left for retirement. Lifetime goals won’t be achieved.

Slowly, I’m learning to let go and trust that God is really the one driving the bus. I have my own duties that I’m called to do, but I’m not in charge. I don’t want to slack off and assume that there will be another day to do what I’m called to do – but I also don’t need to fret so much that I don’t enjoy today.

Bead control

I once taught a prayer bracelet workshop at a silent retreat. That was very difficult for me. I normally want to control things, and when I can’t talk, I can’t control. I could have written down what I wanted to tell people right then but either I didn’t think about that or I thought that was cheating. I had printed instructions for the very first silent retreat that I taught at but it seems like nobody read them or followed them.

There was a certain length of cord that I provided for the bracelets this time. That helped a lot. When I’ve taught prayer bracelet classes before where I could talk, people sometimes ended making bracelets that were either too short or too long. Some of them were more like necklaces.

Another thing that is important to tell people when making prayer bracelets is that they need to not put anything really heavy in the center because it will slide to that underside of your wrist and you’ll never see it. I couldn’t say that this time, and saw it happening. I knew the person would be frustrated later, but I had to let it go.

When I have taught the class before I would sometimes have to have people take the entire thing apart and redo it. At this retreat I couldn’t say anything, so I just had to let the bracelets be the way they were. Bracelets and people are a lot alike.

I had printed instructions telling them that they were supposed to put a special bead and then a plain bead and then a different special bead and the same kind of plain bead. Since the bracelets were only five dollars each this is a way that I wouldn’t lose money. Nobody did it this way. I had to let that go too.

I never thought that I would learn a lot about myself from teaching a prayer bracelet workshop at a silent retreat. It was hard to let go. I’ve invested a lot of my life into beads. Part of all of this was about relearning and unlearning. I wanted to share this new way of praying with people, but I didn’t need to do it in such a way that I needed therapy afterwards.

Dread

I’ve had a sense of dread for the past few days. Sometimes I know things before they happen. Or rather, sometimes I know that something is going to happen, but not exactly what. It is God’s way of saying “be on guard”. But sometimes it is just a physical thing, because I’ve gotten out of synch.

I’ve not been following my routine, certainly. I’ve not been exercising like I normally do and I’ve been eating more junk food and less vegetables. I know better, but it happens. When things are going well, it is easy to forget that all the stuff I do to get well is what got me there.

So maybe that was it. Or not. It is hard to figure out these feelings sometimes. Sometimes I feel like a big radio receiver, but I don’t know what channel I’m listening to.

As I’ve mentioned previously, things have gotten worse with my parents-in-law. She fell and got a concussion and broke her leg. She was put in the hospital, and then rehab. My father-in-law has early stages of dementia as well as Parkinson’s. He thinks he can take care of himself, and usually he can.

We all thought everything was fine for now. The kids, and by that I mean those of us in our 40s, are aware that things will get worse soon, but we didn’t think it would be this soon. The parents are playing chicken with the idea of the nursing home.

But now, my father-in-law has gone missing.

Yesterday he went to visit his wife in the rehab center and got lost. He wound up about an hour away from his home. He didn’t think to have a map with him, and his GPS needs updating apparantly. He drove around for three hours before he called for help.

We thought that was it. We knew that it was going to get worse, but not this soon.

Today he tried to visit her again, and we don’t know where he is. My husband has notified the police.

He’s very calm about it, which is unlike him. I’m grateful.

And now I know where the sense of dread was coming from.

I’ve been praying about this feeling for the past few days, while also getting back into my diet and exercise routine. I’ve come to a sense of calm about it – to accept that whatever happens is God’s will. To be thankful, even, because I need to remember that God is always in charge.

It isn’t easy.

Normally, when something difficult is going on in my life, I have had at least some small role to play. Even though I’m trusting that God is in charge, I’ve still got my little part that God wants me to do. I know it isn’t everything, or even anywhere near the majority of the work. But it is something, and that something makes me feel better.

I can’t do anything now. Well, I can pray. And trust. And breathe through it. I can’t control any of this. I have to keep reminding myself that whatever happens is whatever is supposed to happen.

UPDATE. He showed back up at home – seven hours after he left. He claims he got confused, and he had bad directions. He’s safe, for now.

All together now.

Michael Pollan has a book called “Food Rules.” In it, he explains that he read a bunch of books about nutrition, and the root of it all came down to this little phrase. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” He then spent the rest of the book explaining that.

So I’m going to try to do the same with enlightenment and freedom from pain and how to appreciate life. I’m a gestalt learner, so it is coming together all at once and I’m seeing a lot of connections. Some of it is from child-rearing books, some from autism books, some from books about how to deal with being part of an abusive family or a co-dependent relationship. Some comes from Jesus, from Buddha, from Eckhart Tolle, from Lao Tzu. Sadly, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be able to quote anybody on any of this, as it is a synthesis.

I suspect you’ve heard most of this before, but perhaps not in this way. If you are like me, you have to hear things several different ways before something clicks and it goes in and sets up shop in your head. Hopefully some of this is helpful to you. So let’s begin.

Here’s my synthesis.

Give up the idea of control. Give up deciding what is “good” and “bad.” Be thankful, right now, for what is. Learn as much as you can about everything.

Here’s my explanation of that.

Resistance is futile. That which you avoid must be faced. Run away and it only becomes bigger. Face it, and it gets smaller. It is a normal human reaction to avoid pain. But by not facing painful things, you don’t get rid of them. You just delay dealing with them.

Yes, it is hard to face your fears. Nobody wants to. But strong people were those folks willing to try, step by step, to face what they were afraid of. It is worth the effort. It gets easier the more you do it.

Everybody and everything wants to be noticed. Notice, fully. See every person as if they are God in disguise. See every situation as an opportunity to learn and grow. It is all in your perspective.

What you focus on expands. (I think Oprah said that.)

Love is indeed the answer. Don’t judge anything or anyone. This includes people, ideas, and events. The more you decide what is “good” and what is “bad,” and the less you accept things just as they are, the better things will go for you.

Hate is another name for fear. Face what you are afraid of. Learn all about it. Lean into it. Study it. Then you will learn it isn’t what you thought it was. Fear is often ignorance in disguise. Learn as much as you can and the fear goes away.

Nothing is ever what you think it is.

Don’t make up stories about why people do what they do and what they are thinking. Ask them. When you make up stories, it is always going to make the situation worse, and you’ll often be wrong.

Try not to use the word “why” when you are asking people what their motivations are. “Why” causes defensiveness. One way is to say “I was wondering if you could tell me more about…” or “Could you help me understand about…”

Two people who have gone through the same experience will have different reactions to it. Just because you have lived through a car crash doesn’t mean that your friend who did the same has the same emotional reaction to it. They have a different history and a different emotional makeup.

Tell people how their actions make you feel. Feelings are very important.

If you don’t know how you feel about something, it is helpful to journal. You don’t have to be a great writer. This isn’t the great American novel. This is for you and you only to read, and it will be messy. Writing is surprising – you learn stuff while you write. It isn’t about putting things down on paper. It is about receiving as well. Pray while you write for insight.

We are a product of our environment and our conditioning. Often we do it that way because we’ve always done it that way – but that isn’t a good reason to keep doing it that way.

Examine everything.

If someone (or an institution/authority figure) doesn’t like you asking why they do it that way, then dig harder. You are onto something.

The more resistance you encounter, the bigger the sign that is something you must work on. This is true with every situation.

Our need to label things good and bad causes a lot of our distress. It just IS, without a label. (Look in my “Resources” section under “Prayers and Stories I like” for the Rumi poem and the Chinese story for illustrations of this.)

Don’t even judge your healing. You are moving, and you have identified the disease. You are on the path to a cure. Every time you catch yourself falling into your old habits, don’t focus on the habit – notice the fact that you caught it and are changing it. Change takes a long time, and habits take a long time to undo. Be patient with the process.

There is something to be said for enjoying the right now, for not waiting for the future to bring relief.

Jonah prayed to God, gave thanks to God, while in the whale. He was thankful in the middle of a terrible situation. It was only then that he was freed. There is something powerful in this. It isn’t about praying and going through the motions of being thankful so that you will get some future goal of happiness. It is about actually being thankful in the moment. This is opposite what Western society teaches, so it isn’t easy to learn but it is worth it.

There is so much dis-ease, or lack of ease, with the 21st century Western way of thinking. It is about getting more and more. This is why people suffer from depression and heart problems and high blood pressure and chronic pain and bankruptcy. They are filling in their holes with the wrong things. They are unhappy, so they eat more. They are unhappy, so they comfort themselves by buying more. It is hard to change this cycle, but it is essential. It gets easier the more you do it.

I think there is a lot to be learned by the fact that Jesus often says to people that their faith has healed them. He didn’t heal them. They were seeking healing. They asked for help. Something about the seeking and asking worked. Jesus tell s us “Ask and it shall be given unto you, seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be opened unto you.” All of these require action on your part. It isn’t passive. You have to make the first step.

Like in the story of the prodigal son, he started to return to his father. When his father saw him, far off, his father ran to greet him. But he still had to start on the journey to return. So you have an impact on your situation. You don’t have to wait to be rescued.

Life is about focusing on the can, rather than the can’t. The more you focus on what you don’t have or can’t do, the less you will notice what you do have, and what you can do. Regret never built a raft.

Life is about being thankful for what you have, right now. If you can’t appreciate what you have, then how are you going to appreciate what you will get in the future?

Even “bad” things need to be appreciated. They are ways in. They are excuses and reminders to pray to God. They keep us awake and paying attention. And sometimes the “bad” thing is a blessing – we just don’t know it yet.

Part of loving God is trusting God. Know that all things are within God’s hands. Everything comes from God. God has a plan bigger than you could ever imagine. We humans don’t have that perspective. We think “Why is this happening to me?” while we forget to be thankful for all the blessings we get. (We learn this in the Book of Job).