1 Peter 3:13-22
This reading for me cut a little close to home, it has taken me 3 days to get to a point where I am willing to put it up on the screen.
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good.. When I was young, in my naive happy place, I would have believed this whole heartedly. Tragically some decades later, after a series of major soul-destroying conflicts, I find it much more difficult to say amen to this statement.. The second line of this reading I hold to like a spiderweb is the spiders’ lifeline – But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. I wish I was able to easily hold onto this, deeply in my soul, so that it fed me and kept me strong in those difficult times. But the truth is in the middle of suffering for doing good, I do not feel blessed. I feel alone, weak, scared and vulnerable. Yet in some weird way, I am driven to speak the truth, over and over again, despite the pain I experience in doing so.
It is in the stillness of Lent that I reflect with you on why.. usually this reflection happens in the post event, a couple of months / years later, when I start to see the tiny, tiny fragile tips of green shoots from the seeds of courageous action (post the living through the rotten fruit ), that I can really take comfort. It is with time when I see the freedom found in those oppressed, the courage they discover in being honoured and listened to, that I realise that this is what Jesus is talking about. This is the blessing of preventing ongoing systemic family abuse, the hungry fed, the oppressed free, the naked clothed, shattered self-esteem, rebuilt like the Japanese art of Kintsugi, where broken pottery is put back together with a lacquer containing gold or silver.
I think one of the hardest things with doing good and acting in an honourable way is that sometimes that gives people even more freedom to say what they like, in not fighting back or gossiping, you are relying on good people to ask the question is there more to this story than the side I am hearing? Does this ring true to what I know? Why is this person remaining silent in the face of all of this? It is hard when they accept just what is said particularly when they are people you love and trust..
Now I wake daily, aware of how deeply I am blessed, yet it is hard for me when people I knew who want to just skip to the here and now , without hearing the pain of my journey on the way. The pot is back together but the gold is still a little warm in places. You can’t rush this and if we want to have truly deep relationships with integrity we need to hear this. I can’t tell you the blessing of a deeply listening ear, reflecting back the depth of a situation, one’s suffering being acknowledged. It is gold, truly gold.
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” So I continue on the journey with God, allowing the gold cracks to shine beautifully in the sunlight, in the hope that others who are broken may see this and ask – How do you remain hopeful in this? and then I tell them about the God who loves me so deeply, that I am never truly alone. The God who puts beautiful people in my life in the moments I think I am only shards left for the garbage, who hold me gently and place the pieces back together, sharing their gold so that they begin to stick. How I have seen my courage change people’s lives and I have been blessed with them, to see the results of thier own beautiful pots with the gold seams sparkling in the sun. And I tell them the story how God knows my pain because he felt it while he was on earth and like the season of Easter we are journeying to, death and destruction are never the end of the story.
As we journey through Lent we must reflect how we too are part of the destruction of our world. Where are we holding so tightly that things are smashing rather than us moving to find a place of hope that we can build together. Where do we only want to hear one side because it is easier for us, because we have a deadline to reach or because we just forget there is another human being in this situation? When do we jump to conclusions or listen to gossip or tell gossip, thinking we know the truth.. Is this really our story to tell?
Tragically I think that often things don’t need to be as damaging as they are, but I think it requires us to tell the truth when things are just a little out of whack, but also for it to be heard. This is hard because we are vulnerable fragile people, our self, controls us in ways sometimes we don’t even see or understand. Often we don’t even realise the parts of ourselves that hurt others. It is hard to hear painful truths about ourselves.
Lent is the season to stop, to check out our pots and see what needs some work. Where are the sharp edges that need smoothing, what are our chips that need refilling? This is not work we can do alone, it takes courage to sit with God and ask these hard questions, much harder than giving up chocolate. The honour it brings to God and humanity and the healing it brings to ourselves is so worth the sacrifice.
So if I have hurt you in my passionate enthusiasm, I am sorry.
If my committment to what I love has meant you feel I have not heard you, I am sorry.
If I have got frustrated with you because I feel like you are not hearing me, I am truly sorry.
Know that at all times I seek to act in love and will stick up for the weak and vulnerable and try to make the best out of a situation. I am trying to live a Jesus life.
I’m still learning, a work in progress.