Thursday, August 10, 2006

i wish it was my place to forgive

(and i wish it wasn't presumptuous to write this) --

but i've been thinking about 9/11 and everything that's unraveled since then. i can't help but feel like we are on the brink of a third world war. it would take so little - iran supporting hizbullah, or really any nation at all publicly supporting a terrorist organization. we're already divided into sets of allies, and the twin towers provided such momentum (why couldn't we have seen it then?)

i wish we could have responded with grace. i have been reading about how history has changed because of nonviolent responses - for example, the berlin wall came down after a world-wide day of prayer, culminated by a march that slowly approached the wall - an unarmed crowd singing hyms. it came down without a single shot. stalin once sarcastically asked how many troops the pope has - i guess now we know. i also read of a beloved romanian priest who was fished out of a river with his eyes and fingernails ripped out (during the communist era.) thousands of people took to the streets and marched to the government offices chanting "we forgive, we forgive." it impacted that country, it changed history.

i wish we could forgive. i wish we could meet their hatred with grace, rather than becoming who they thought we were all along. (i'm sorry to use the word "we" loosely - i'm referring to the national image we have acquired after abu ghraib, haditha, guantanamo, the rape/murder of the iraqi girl, and etc.) anyway, i apologize in advance. i know this is pretentious, and i know there's nothing wrong with justice...i just so-badly wish that things had turned out differently.


The Goodfellas said...

i regret already how naive this sounds (should i delete it?) so for the record maybe i'll try to clarify a few things: i'm not saying that it's wrong for a country to defend herself, or that we should just let our country be taken over by extremists. i don't believe in peace at any cost, and i think that the uprooting of the taliban was necessary and good (not only for us but for the afghans, which is in a sense how i am concluding that it was good.) i just feel that ultimately, terrorism cannot be conquered by violence. that only feeds it, justifies it, recruits more. i know the role that government has to play in this - it is their job to defend our country. but what is the role that the average citizen plays? and what could we do to create change? how can we show grace? is there any way we could organize to send a radically different message?

ningyo said...

I understand what you mean Jenny.

Such overwhelmingly conflicting feelings, what is, what could have been and how we should respond in the future.

Thanks for the reminder that I need to pray a LOT more.

The Goodfellas said...

thanks for your patience (i am sorry to have 2 somber posts almost in a row)... i was thinking about this other book i read. part of the storyline is about this ukranian jewish guy who is in love with a gypsy girl, and they keep sending each other love letters. he slips the notes into this basket she charms cobras out of, and she carves him messages on trees. his notes are always made up of letters from the newspaper - as the novel advances the headlines mainly warn about hitler's approach, and he keeps cutting them up to write beautiful things. i guess in some ways i just feel like him - all the headlines are about violence, but life here remains the same, and so for the meantime what can we do but live like normal? and so, more than anything, this is just a moment to notice what is happening - at least for posterity's sake, to say yes, we do see. (although i am sorry to sound fatalistic, maybe nothing will happen? maybe i should lay off reading "the causes of ww1" for a while? maybe it's got me jumpy?) ;) (this is the point where i generally brush off everything i've just said, sorry sorry sorry for being so somber)

The Goodfellas said...

oh yes! but getting back to the point - is there anything we could do to send a message of grace to the middle east, to the terrorists? for real, wouldn't that be so amazing?

heidi_go_lightly said...

Jenny-- Please don't delete this post it sounds neither naive nor pretentious. On the contrary, I thought it sounded wise and articulate. I started responding to this post, but it got really really really long and I didn't want to take up all your comment space. I'll finish it up and post it officially tomorrow... so check my blog for it.

The Goodfellas said...

i look forward to reading it. :)
will you maybe post a copy here? i dont mind long responses (on the contrary!)

heidi_go_lightly said...

By request from Jenny, here is my monsterously long comment in which I try to give an answer and solution for all the world's problems,(and she thought she was being pretentious ; ) )

I remember exactly where I was when the Twin Towers were attacked--that whole day is burned into my memory down to the slightlest details. Starting with my roomate, Katy, comming into my room saying that a plane flew into one of the towers, I think I said something like, "what the dorm?" We had a dorm named Towers at UWEC and a small local airport on the outskirts of Eau Claire. I thought she meant a little hobby plane crashed--it made no sense, but I had hit my snooze alarm too many times and I was running late for class and was half awake. I remember what the tears on my cheeks felt like as I watched the second tower collapse like a sand castle. Thanks to news coverage, we were all witnesses to the greatest tradgedy in America in my lifetime. How do we respond to that?

How do we respond to anything difficult that we deal with in this world that we know is far from the way it should be? I've been thinking a lot about this in the context of the Halbach murder. Whenever they show her murderer on the news, I try to understand how somebody who kidnapped, raped, murdered, dismembered, disposed of remains by feeding them to the dog and burnning the rest, and went on T.V. saying things like 'I hope they find her' before he was a suspect, could possibly by any stretch of the imagination recieve God's grace. Yet I know that God's grace is big enough to cover even that--even though, honestly, I don't want it to be. In the end, because of the damage caused by our sin--even our lawbidding sins--God's grace needs to be that big.

Over the last year, I have begun to ache over the pain that we all endure as part of life in this horribly screwed up world. I think of the longterm affects of a parent's alcohalism on an aquaintaince's life--and the pain that is still very much there that he tries not to let show, and how that sin has had such a ripple effect causing many more sins and more problems and having a further negative impact. In a world where we are all to some degree busted and broken, and too often contribute to the busting and breaking of others, how do we live in, give, and recieve grace?

Over the last year, I've learned a lot about myself. I started to actually to look at my sin without rationalizing my actions or making excuses--and I squirmed and wanted to turn away but I forced myself to keep looking at it. I've stared in the eyes of the darkest, messiest, neediest parts of myself. I've come to terms with the concept of being a sinner as I've realized how my sins have caused hurt in the lives of others or have made somethings more difficult than they had to be. My sin does damage and that damage ripples out.

It's perplexing to realized how we humans are catapaulted by our pain and hurt to cause more pain and hurt. It's a lot like a demolition derby, but with souls instead of station wagons from the early 80's.

So what do we do about it?

My younger brother said something to me that comes to mind, he was telling me about his discomfort with the litany at our old fashioned Lutheran church this week.

To quote Dustin: "I was reading the words to myself because I refuse to read them out loud. It was all 'we're poor miserable sinners blah blah blah, grovel grovel, woe is me, woe is me, I'm terrible, I suck.' I know that I'm a sinner, you don't have to tell me I screw up I know that already. I'm sick of going to church and dwelling on that, I want to know how to deal with it and move on. Isn't that what the point of church is suppossed to be?"

So what do we do? We listen to Dustin. We look at our sin honestly. We look at the mess this world is honestly and objectively. And then, we look to God, knowing that the answer to the mess isn't going to be found in ourselves or dwelling on our weakness or regrets. We trust and obey. We don't condemn, we love. We forgive and give ourselves and others a second chance, and if we need to, a 70th chance. We learn from Lot's wife that looking back at your sin and regret will bring about your destruction [I mean do what you can to make amends, but then let go of it].

Last spring, I was giving a kid one of my famous "we're going to have a talk in the hall" lectures. He had been making fun of another student who had some challenges. I told him something like, "life on this planet is hard enough for anybody-- and it's going to be that much harder for student X. We don't need to it any harder than it already is." I thought to myself as we went back into the room, I need to remember that myself. My point is we need to make an effort to do what we can day to day to send out ripples of love and grace, not ripples of destruction. And yes, the world is still at war. But we do what we can to fight evil with love--isn't that the message of the Bible? Isn't that the example of Christ? I'm not saying do away with war. I'm saying be just. As I say this, I scroll through my day and know that I am a far way from fully practicing what I preach. But I need to try.

The Goodfellas said...

oh heidi, that was beautiful. thank you so much for writing it out.

your thoughts about the halbach murder reminds me of this incredible observation i read: God's love is a reflection of who HE is, not who we are. completely independent of what we are, He loves, because that is just who He is. and i love that he loves fiercely; it's not some deadhead-type "everything's cool" type of love, but a vigorous, strenuous love, a love that never gives up. amazing.

the idea of moving forward that you wrote about is the same thing i've been thinking about a lot lately. i realized that when i think of the word "guilt" or "shame", my mind automatically swivels between the same 3 or 4 things. we education majors know what that means right?! geez. this schema built up in the brain, an association that only gets stronger the more you think about things, the more you connect them. and i realized this and i've been praying that God would help me stop; just let go. like we talked about earlier - he gave me a clean slate, why can't i give myself one? or, like we've been talking about in this post, why can't i receive grace? why can't i truly believe it?

and when i look at how much someone like me starves for grace -someone literally surrounded with love - it makes me realize how much other people need it too, and what an amazing gift it is to give.