Holy Week has begun. Palms have been blessed, people have been sprinkled, and clergy people are gearing up for what is undoubtedly one the single busiest weeks of the entire year. Did you ever want to just duck and cover during Holy Week?
Listening to the murmuring around me, the buzz of voices with all the good, bad and ugly, I am hearing again the grinding of ice. I know the sound well for I have heard it within myself and it is a chill scraping of frozen words against frozen people.
A bit weird but allow me to explain: we freeze people.
We freeze ourselves solid. We don't allow ourselves to move. We don't allow ourselves to change. The people we knew way back when are they people we assumet to know now and there can be no other way. What we know is what we know, and that's that.
10 years ago, I was a fundamental conservative. For some, that "Erin" is the only Erin who will ever exist.
See where I'm going?
"10 years ago my best friend showed her true colours as a racist. She was a racist then and she's a racist now." (never mind that there hasn't been personal contact for 10 years)
"10 years ago my boss was a crook. He took my money. He was a thief then and he's a thief now." (never mind that there hasn't been personal contact for 10 years)
"10 years ago my mom was a lazy welfare recipient. She'd never get off the couch or get a job. She was lazy then and she's lazy now." (never mind that there hasn't been personal contact for 10 years).
When things go wrong in community and we walk away from each other, our last communications with people tend to leave the longest-lasting aftertastes in our mouths. Sometimes a parting of ways is positive, healthy, and pleasing to the palette. We assume there will be growth on both sides, a moving on of life that will inspire, nurture and encourage.
But when we part ways under crappy circumstances, those aftertastes are long and bitter. To protect ourselves, or prove our own perceptions correct we flash-freeze people to stop the awful stuff being forced down our throats. Those perceptions become the people and they.don't.move.
Like Inspector Javert in Hugo's Les Miserables, once a "—-" (insert label here), always a "—–".
“Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.” (Henri Nouwen)
The truth is: we often don't want to forgive. We'd much rather have power over our friends and family by justifying our zero-contact policy. By calling my friend a racist, I absolve myself from having anything to do with her. By calling my boss a crook, I attempt to uplift my own name by smearing his. The whacky thing is these things may all have been 100% in the moment.
Fast-forward 10 years.
Racist-Friend has not changed? Not even an ounce? Crooked Boss hasn't changed? Not a tiny speck?
How would we know?
We freeze people. We don't want to be hurt again or jilted again or manipulated, so we label folks badly to rationalize our own beliefs about the world. Chances are Racist-Friend HAS changed in many ways, as has Crooked Boss. Perhaps the changes haven't be the best of changes, but change has been present nonetheless. It's difficult for us as humans to remain truly frozen without dying. It's our own icy perceptions that create impenetrable forms of people, and are shown off to the world. But these perceptions are frozen forgeries.
We know NOTHING of the hearts of those who have wronged us or hurt us. Not in the deep core anyway.
So we gossip. We whisper. We harbour secret grief.
It saddens me. I hate to hear the ice grinding within myself.
There are times when ice helps, I'll admit that.
"10 years ago my teacher raped me. He was a rapist then and probably one now." (yes mind that there hasn't been personal contact for a decade. Space from victim and victimizer is a survival skill)
I think there are times and places when ice can be brilliant — cold and stabilizing. Do these circumstances absolve us of forgiveness? No, but we can understand that God's perfect Love doesn't demand that forgiveness go "POOF!"
All hurt and pain are gone!
I think I'm referring to everyday labels and experiences each and everyone of us goes through. Instead of forgiving daily we create false perceptions — frozen forgeries of people who need the space to change.
We don't have power over what the change will look like, but if we have any trust in God at all we will ourselves become malleable, massage-able, relaxed. I know I am NOT the same woman I was 10 years ago. Why do I insist on keeping others frozen into my own forgeries? Why do we all?
Some heavy thoughts during Easter Week…
Until next time, Henri,