Have you ever noticed that the Golden Rule comes with no promise at the end? No words of hope — do this and you will get this. Nothing. Do it because it’s the law.
“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” (Matthew 7:12, NLT) The ESV says “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” and the NASB says “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.”
I think that stinks. I have struggled with a situation where I believe I have the higher ground to stand on. I have made good choices. I have done well. I have been the loving daughter, yes. I have accepted.
And this Christmas — as always happens, when will I ever learn — I got slapped in the face by my mother again. I don’t even know that the details or the reasons matter. I think she is incapable of keeping her promises. She is unable to do something based on what’s right. For all my disputes with my father, I can say at least that he lived by his convictions.
I could make a list and this would be a long one, of the significant times in my life when I trusted her and she betrayed that trust. I’m so tired. I know that I am to forgive her but when will I learn? If forgiveness means putting yourself out there to let it happen again, and again, then, well, that just makes you a chump.
But what if the person that hurts you with regularity is your own mother? And what if that person is almost alone in the world? Isolated (if by her own choice) and living for herself, impulsive with her generosity and love, unpredictable in her withdrawal? What if …?
Lewis Smedes in his book The Art of Forgiveness, says: “we filter the image of our villain through the gauze of wounded memories and in the process alter his reality.”
And yet, even she was made in God’s image and is loved by Him. I don’t want vengeance, as Smedes suggests is the next step to forgiveness — surrendering our desire to get even. I don’t want her to hurt. She’s lived with enough pain.
She oozes her pain and fear of life. I actually want my mother to be whole. I long for, wish for in my deepest sad places for my mother that she would heal and be free.
And I’m just tired.
I want to surrender to the idea that she can no longer hurt me. But every time I let her close she does just that. And I’ve been searching mentally for days with my questions and I have been trying to figure out what to do.
“Forgiving is not meant for every pain people cause us. Never has been, any more than Prozac was invented to cure the Monday morning blahs. Forgiving is for the wounds that stab at our souls, for wrongs that we cannot put up with, ever, from anyone. When we forgive people for things that do not need forgiving we dilute the power, spoil the beauty, and interrupt the healing of forgiveness. But when we forgive the things that forgiving is for we copy God’s own art.
God is the original, master forgiver. Each time we grope our reluctant way through the minor miracle of forgiving, we are imitating his style. I am not at all sure that any of us would have had the imagination enough to see the possibilities in this way to heal the wrongs of this life had he not done it first.”(Smedes)
When I first read these words I was angry, for I have an unreturned call to my mother and I have to figure out what I am going to do. She asked to spend Christmas Eve with my family, she chose to come to church with us and celebrate with our brood. And then she called and said she wasn’t coming though she only lives across town. Ten minutes. “I could pick you up”, I said. “No I don’t want to come.” was her reply. I don’t know why. Sure, I’ve speculated. And as I have in the past, I could try to pick her brain to discover what small hint of truth is there that will appease the gaping hole in my soul, feeling her rejection physically.
This rending is old — My heart is shredded.
My heart weeps with pain that I don’t understand – the sense of being rejected my parents. It is an ancient unhappiness, pain that feels older than me, going back a generation to my father and mother. Neither of them felt loved by their parents. Both experienced rejection, they tell stories of actual real rejection, which I never experienced. Not really. But for some reason I live it. And every action they live out has become either proof of their rejection of me or proof of their acceptance.
She is set up to fail even before she does. And she does. Oh she does!
When she told me over the phone that she was moving with no processing, no reasons, no explanation just fact. When she chose not to invite me to Mother’s day, with no reasons, or explanation. “I don’t know why I didn’t invite you.” “I don’t know why I didn’t process my moving with you.” “I don’t know why I couldn’t come for Christmas with your family.”
“Forgiving isn’t meant for every pain people cause us.” (Smedes)
And then the moment of clarity comes.
What’s going on inside me is more about my frailty. I can love without being loved in return, because it is the right thing to do. And I can adjust my expectations, to none, so that I won’t be hurt so often. And I can and must stop talking about my feelings of rejection so that my children can have some semblance of relationship with their grandmother.
Without the generations whispering fear and brokenness into their hearts.
That is my challenge. That is the higher choice. That is what it means to forgive as you were forgiven. I don’t necessarily agree with every word Smedes says about forgiveness, or perhaps that too is simple semantics.
I have a phone call to return. I expect to listen. And offer simply my ear and perhaps a tiny piece of my heart. I expect that I will be hurt again, but for today I will not turn away but turn toward my mother.
Offer her the other cheek and who knows, perhaps one day rather that a slap I will receive a kiss.
See there I go again, feeling hope. Thank you Jesus.
If you love only those that love you, what reward is there in that? If you are kind to only your friends how are you different than anyone else? (Matthew 7)