There are memories, and then there are consequences. Recognizing that we have veered off course or missed the mark on something we tried to accomplish can be discomfiting. Consequences – incarceration, legal action, foreclosure—can be excruciatingly painful. So is facing what has been irretrievably lost. It’s natural to feel grief concerning the loss of a relationship, an opportunity, a job, another’s trust in you, your trust in another, years gone by, money spent foolishly, pleasures given up, and, of course, the loss of life itself in death.
When mired in grief over the consequences of our actions, we can take some comfort in knowing that grief is not a permanent state but a journey towards something else. The destination—acceptance—can give us hope. When we have an idea of where our life is heading, we can put obstacles and hardships into perspective and persevere. We can examine past choices, and while regret for them may be heartrending, we can look forward with hope that they won’t be repeated.
The honest seeker will, at some point, stop defending himself from the truth. In an effort to rationalize our actions to ourselves, we erect barriers to truth. We hold our victims culpable in some way for our actions against them. When we release ourselves from the self-defense pretense, we have an unobstructed view to the pain we caused others. Feeling their pain, compassion, is a natural consequence of confronting this truth.
God, in his infinite compassion to all, is present to all the pain—the pain someone caused me, the pain I caused someone else, and the compassion I feel for the one I hurt. Perhaps most heartbreaking is God’s faithful and unwavering presence to us even when we fail to hold up our end of the relationship with him.
Imagine how it feels to be in a relationship in which you’re ignored. Your continual shows of love and support are overlooked or taken for granted. Your intervening help saves the day over and over, but your partner acts as if she had it under control all along and you didn’t have anything to do it. You work hard to dream up the perfect gift and are excited to give it, but it is left unopened, not even important enough for her to bother unwrapping. What kind of relationship is that? It is how I treat God.
When we own up to all the ways we turned our back on the one who never stops seeking us, we grow into compassion, reciprocal compassion, for God. This compassion bears an exquisite kind of pain. To feel the pain God feels over you is to grasp just how much he loves you. It is a big step into intimacy with God, and it is perhaps our greatest source of hope.
Join the conversation. What becomes possible when you release yourself from the self-defense pretense?
Copyright 2011 Stephanie Walker All rights reserved. Visit http://www.AcrossTraditions.com.