Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Innocence & Forgiveness

We celebrate several sets of holidays around here ... the traditional American & Christian-based holidays, Jewish holidays and Chinese holidays. Every day is practically a holiday!

At Christmas-time, I talk to the children about Jesus and what I see as his essential message of Love & forgiveness. Alia (age 5) heard my little song and dance about Jesus over a light breakfast this year, and then said: "That's a good story."

There is a beautiful passage in A Course in Miracles that re-interprets the message of the crucifixion. Rather than being about the death of a son in "sacrifice" (how similar to ancient traditions of sacrificing animals, humans, etc. to God or various Gods) .... the message is rather about how one who, faced with the ultimate undeserved attack upon his body, his person, his name ... taught the message of forgiveness in the final moments before his, at least bodily, death.

How is it then, that we, when faced with slights and injuries of much less significant proportions, can so easily become enraged and vengeful? Toni Packer, in the somewhat obscure but revealing little book The Light of Discovery, describes many of our daily encounters as: "you say something that hurts the image I have of myself, and I say something back that hurts your image of yourself ..." (and she notes, "if that is all that is going on, nothing is learned.")

As a suburban Mom, I like to look at these grander themes through the lens of daily life. What does forgiveness mean with children, spouses, partners? Teachers? Relatives? Drivers on our commutes ... and other possibly troublesome folks?

How can we see the innocence in one another, "turn the other cheek" as it were? I am certainly no expert and could easily list a few people I have not quite, fully, er, forgiven. At the top of the list, probably, would be Me.

On Christmas Day, I happened to have scored with a nice gift for my husband, a set of very tall liquor glasses on thin stems--each a different shape and brilliant color. I had hoped ... and he actually liked them more than I expected he would. And then there was the moment when, in all of her excitement, our Alia reached quickly across the dining table to grab one of her presents and broke a glass--beyond repair.

My husband got angry. Why? He liked the present, actually, had already become somewhat attached. He interpreted Alia's actions as being linked to a kind of hyper-ness she sometimes gets into (a possible long term problem? ... worry, concern, are we parenting all wrong?) and spoke in stern tones to her about "moving too fast," and now look what happened, etc.

Alia burst into tears after a second or two of silent processing, and then went running to her room to ball herself up in blankets and be upset for a good while. Now it was my turn: I could get upset at my husband for over-reacting, for possibly marring our young child's Christmas Day, etc. etc. I had worked so hard to make a nice day for us all, and I saw the breaking of the glass as no big deal.

But by the Grace of God I saw instead my husband's innocence. I understood the reasons--rational or not--why he got upset (as listed above); and most importantly, I saw the seeds of all his reasons in myself. My heart went out to him (along with my daughter). I get attached to things too, I judge our daughter too, I worry about her future, too. How could I throw the first stone?

So, I let it rest. I helped Alia come back to our really quite lovely Day. My husband settled down and apologized to her. And I was relieved that I had not added more judgment and pain to the judgment and pain that had already occurred.

I say "by the Grace of God" because I am honestly not always so good at forgiveness.

I also realize that other sorts of slights are perhaps harder to forgive. Victims of physical attacks, of war and other sorts of violence ...

I am clear, however, that if we cannot learn to overcome these small, seemingly mundane incidents, the larger ones will go on and on in their endless and furious cycles.

The mysterious doors between life and death are opening around me now (in my circle of friends, in my family) ... Like the holidays, it's a time for reflection on what's important. And if Jesus was right, those things are Love & forgiveness. I think, in the end, they are really One.

As we are really One. Without Love & forgiveness our Oneness cannot be known and felt.

And our Oneness is ultimately that which is Eternal.

Do you have a story or thought on Love & forgiveness? If so, please share in "comments" ...

With Love,

Your Mystical Mama


Unknown said...

Good posting, Ami!
My Christmas Day was less than perfect with my father this year. He was in a pretty bad mood and I felt like I was getting the brunt of it. He had me in tears at one point. It wasn't until a couple of hours later that it occurred to me that he was probably in such a bad mood because he was thinking about his own mortality and reflecting on the fact of whether or not he'd even be around next Christmas. At 77, his health hasn't been good lately. It’s only then that I stopped thinking about myself and how he messed up by Holiday and started thinking about what he was thinking and how he felt. Point being that no one, especially a loved one, intentionally screws up Christmas.

Jeff McMahon said...

Lovely post, Ami Chen.