A friend of mine did something very dangerous and frightening this week, something which could have and may still affect his family for the rest of their lives. At first I didn’t have many feelings about this. Hearing the news, I was sort of numb. My predominant emotion was irritation. The crisis my friend had generated was getting in the way of my plans for the week. I didn’t want to spend any time on it; didn’t want to get involved. How could he have been so stupid? Everyone else had rushed right in to help, and I found myself annoyed with them as well. I wanted to leave the man to his fate.
Wondering at my callousness, I explored these feelings of not wanting to be bothered. As I allowed them room to speak to me, I discovered they were just the thin coat of ice covering a much stronger sentiment: I was furious. My friend’s actions, how they had put him at risk and endangered his family’s well being, filled me with a boiling rage. I wanted to punch him, spit on him. How dare he do what he had done?
The storms continued to flood my heart. Rage gave way to helpless weeping as I experienced the tragedy of the event. I came to recognize two things: this was a man in deep trouble – and he was totally beyond my reach. There was no way I could make things better. There was no way I had any control whatsoever over anything that had happened or that would happen. I came to realize that underlying all my emotion was my love for everyone involved. Out of my love I wanted to get my fingers into all the false assumptions, the posturing, the addictive behaviors and the defenses in this man and between him and his family – and just rip them apart, rip them to shreds. I wanted to release what was vulnerable in him, protect his vulnerable family and friends, tear away the garbage. And I also wanted to put things back to before the “bad thing” had happened and make it all just not so.
These were finally the truest, the deepest feelings within me, and they brought me home to prayer. It was a long, gasping, snot-filled lament. But at the center of it was the true me, standing in relationship with the living God. Now I can go help where it is possible and forgive where I am able, out of the balance that springs from resting on my own deepest ground.
“Abide in me,” says Jesus, and, “just as the branch cannot bear fruit unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.” I knew all my emotions around my friend’s actions – from the churlish irritation to the consuming anger to the helplessness and despair were acceptable in God’s eyes. And the process of giving them room to have their say in my heart led me ultimately to my center, the place where I abide in Christ. Splintered off and unexplored or falsely justified, my feelings would have led me to behave like a dry branch that bears no fruit. The same would be true if they had continued to be repressed. Only by caring about myself enough to nurture the full truth of my passion into awareness and then to pray can I ever come to that place of centeredness where I abide in Jesus, who is God, who is love.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. See her work online at Everyday Mysteries With others she manages a website for the Diocese of Colorado highlighting congregations’ creative ministries: Fresh Expressions Colorado