by Maria Evans
Daily Office Readings for May 12:
The difference between virtue and vice gets more complicated, the older we get, doesn’t it? We start out as children with a very “Chutes and Ladders” notion of virtue and vice–do good things and you get to scoot up the ladder, do bad things and down the slide you go. Life, however, has a way of muddying that. We might think we are doing a good thing when we were younger only to discover it wasn’t so good after all in the long run. Someone we love and trust might be capable of committing an awful crime. Not to mention that in our head is a tally of all the things we wish we could reboot–the words that came out too quickly and hurt, the unfounded jealousy, the sense that we covet or idolize certain possessions and things.
It would be a mistake to look at our reading from Colossians today and merely shrug it off as a manual of virtues and vices. What it is really talking about is the inherent tension of being a new creature in Christ, while at the same time having full knowledge of all the ways the memory of who we are as fallible human beings. These struggles and temptations do not disappear when we embrace Christ–in fact, the struggle often worsens, episodically–and discerning what the “Christ-like thing to do” is, doesn’t easily reveal itself at times. We are instructed “do not lie”–to speak from this newly emotionally stripped-down place–yet what if to get to that truth means we have to walk through the valley of our own anger and resentment and jealousy? How do we speak a truth without dragging that stuff into the conversation? I know in my own life, I have said at times, “I wish I could really tell So-and-so how that whole thing over there hurt me,” but when I rehearsed it in my head, and hear it out loud, all I really wanted to do was tell ol’ So-and-so off and hurt them like they hurt me. I knew I wasn’t capable of straightening out the misunderstanding and I had to let it go and trust God loved that other person as much as me and would do the right thing by both of us. It didn’t mean another opportunity might not resurface some day, but it was pretty much a non-starter at that time.
So much in our lives goes unsaid simply because we don’t know how to say it like Jesus would, and we’re just too human and always will be. There are also times in our lives where it’s simply too dangerous to say the truth to someone that can still harm us, and times when someone might feel so threatened by us that to force a conversation inflicts trauma on them. It’s hard to swallow sometimes that reconciliation isn’t always two parties hugging and shaking hands, but can be the simple act of letting go and finding a way to trust that it will all be made right somehow.
Perhaps it is in our reading in John today that we find our answer. The centurion, being a military fellow, understood his own experience with his own authority quite well. Yet he was wise enough to know this was a place his authority was useless, so he both asks others to lobby for him and displays humility when Jesus decides to go to his home, again sending not himself, but friends to meet Jesus en route. He trusts that Jesus has, as we say, “got this” and the knowledge that Jesus can heal his slave is enough to heal his slave.
When we don’t know how to move an emotional stalemate forward, when we know we have caused harm or others have harmed us, and it really doesn’t seem like there’s a “happily ever after” on the horizon, we can still be transformed in the knowledge that we don’t have to be there for Jesus to heal someone. It doesn’t have to work out “the way we planned.” Yet, in the end, love can still win.
When is a time that trusting in Christ enabled you to “let it go” even when you so desperately wanted to insert “your truth” into a situation?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, is a grateful member of Trinity Episcopal Church and a transitional Deacon in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. You can also share her journey on her blog, Chapologist.