Tag: The Bible

Becoming like them would be worse

What a week. On Tuesday, again I was crying, asking, what is happening across the world. Every day there seems to be more violence and anger and fear and it is felt all the more as it erupts in places we thought were safe and stable. The murder of the Priest Fr Jacques Hamel in a small town, St Etienne-du-Rouvray, outside Rouen, was particularly shocking for many reasons including the fact that it shows such acts of war can happen anywhere. Loss of life is equally terrible wherever and whenever it happens and I fully hear the call of those pointing out that atrocities like this go on every day potentially unreported in areas of the world suffering indescribably more than the continent I am privileged to live in. Certainly the spread of attacks in European cities in the last month shakes us by making us realise there is no longer any way we can pretend it is something distant from us or not affecting us.

Some of my family set off today on a holiday driving through France and Spain.  I will be more mindful of their safety and praying all the harder for them than usual. I can’t imagine what it is like living somewhere that has been directly affected. Understandably, there is a call to action. Churches in the UK have all been asked to review their security systems, for example.

One part of the response that I find very alarming is the segregating, defensive, even attacking language and stance that spread quickly in articles and comments on a couple of pages I follow. I can understand the roots of this response, for example, the desire to remove the threat of extremism and restore safety and silence those who preach hate. But very quickly we risk acting in hate ourselves. In the days following Saint Etienne, I read several alarming comments calling for us to take up the crusade against the Muslim world which we supposedly “left unfinished”, saying that anyone who raises their children in the Muslim faith condones these barbaric acts, saying that terrorism spreads from anger (okay, that part I can accept) which spreads from bad education about the source of the Arabic world’s problems and to stop it we have to educate the angry young men who may be recruited by extremists that the Western World is infinitely better than theirs and all their problems are of their own making.

“By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.”

(John 13 v 35)

Perhaps I’m naive but I was shocked. Of course I am not suggesting tolerance or negotiation with extremism / extremists. However, somehow, I don’t think asserting our superiority is going to calm their anger. I don’t think responding to extremists’ war with a “holy war” of our own is a way to bring peace. Labelling a whole religion or culture on the basis of the way an extremist group twists its teachings and seeking to obliterate it, is not a solution to bring peace. Quickly we become anger and we speak in hate. We become like the aggressors that we fear.

I prefer Fr Dominic LeBrun, Archbishop of Rouen’s, response when he was leaving the World Youth Day pilgrimage in Poland to return to France the day after the attack on Fr Jacques. “I cry out to God with all men of goodwill… The Catholic Church has no arms than prayer and fraternity among men. I will leave behind here hundreds of young people who are the future of true humanity. I ask them not to give up in the face of such violence and to become apostles for a civilisation of love.”

Becoming apostles for a civilisation of love does not mean a saccharine sweet front or a return to Flower Power (!) but a genuine and often painful call to continue through pain, instability, suffering, hate and poverty responding in love – still allowing ourselves to dare to feel things other than anger and coldness that might protect our hearts, allowing ourselves to hope, allowing ourselves to believe somehow that people are foremost created for good, including ourselves.

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This applies on an intimate scale too. I apply it to my recovery from what I experienced at the hands of my abuser. That way I do not become what she wanted me to become and do not become like her.

If I give up, stop seeking the good in the little things of every day, I become isolated, as she desired. If I believe the voices, which pleases them – and pleased her – then I remain paralysed and in her control. If I shut myself away and do not speak because I know the torment that will go on in my head afterwards because of her twisted words and threats so firmly internalised, her world continues to surround me. If I allow anger to harden my heart then numb me; if I do not dare learn to let anyone love me; if I do not dare to allow my feelings and needs without punishing myself, then she wins.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.”

(Proverbs 31 v 25)

If I keep looking out and up, I learn to be thankful for a world which teaches us constantly more about our loving Creator. If I counter the voices with God’s Word of truth and life, I become like Him. If I reach out with love wherever I see someone suffering or in need, I forget my own, and good experiences multiply and become more wonderful and more vivid than the fears. If I believe the Lord made us in His image and “clothes with strength and dignity”*, I believe first in my capacity for good and slowly may learn that I am not the evil that she so well convinced me that I am. In all I do, Lord, may “my deeds publicly declare Your praise”*.

Ginny xxx

*Proverbs 31 vs 25 and 31.

 

PS – for fellow NCIS fans…this episode sprang to mind…

becoming like him would be worse

Ziva: This country holds itself to a higher standard. It is a nation of laws which are to be followed not only when it is convenient or easy. I have seen firsthand what happens when convenience wins out.

Tony: You never talk about it.

Ziva: What is there to talk about?

Tony: [Long pause] Come on, Ziva.

Ziva: What Saleem did was bad enough. Becoming like him would be worse.

From NCIS Season 7 – “Masquerade”

PPS: NCIS property of Channel 5 and CBS; directed by Donald Bellisario and produced by Don McGill. Image – Cote de Pablo as Ziva (not from Masquerade because I couldn’t find a suitable appropriate one from Masquerade).

 

This is My Body broken for you – Good Friday of the Passion of Our Lord

Today is Good Friday (for another 40 minutes anyway, as I’m so late posting!).

Today we remember Our Lord Jesus’s suffering and death and begin the watching and waiting with Him – in His prayer in Gesthemane, in His arrest, scourging, crowning with thorns, trial, carrying the Cross, crucifixion, death and burial. At the Cross and at the tomb we wait and watch with Mary his Mother and the disciples.

Today tells us Love came down to us. Our Jesus suffers with us and we with Him. He too cried out in desperation, feeling forsaken. He too wept. He too hurt and bled. Today tells us that in the hardest and darkest times when everything seems lost, everything covered in darkness, everything of you poured out – in that very moment love can still be at work and hope, though yet unseen, can be falling to the earth. At the Cross, all seemed lost, all seemed hopeless, in terrible pain Jesus our hope – died. Yet in that moment His love is poured out and His saving work accomplished.

We wait. We kneel with Mary, watching and waiting. Hope is hidden. Our Lord is in the tomb.  Yes, we wait.  We trust. Today tells us, even in this darkness, even in despair, hold on, because you are beloved of God, and nothing is lost. Love and hope fell to the earth and was hidden – but then love arose! We wait in sure and certain hope of the resurrection on Easter morning and when Jesus is lifted up He calls us to Himself.

When we see so much suffering as there is throughout the world right now, when we are struggling with our own pain, when darkness covers everything for us, we don’t know how to respond. It can seem so huge our efforts seem to be of little worth. Perhaps first, part of holding on is learning to wait, and kneel, not in a passive waiting, but in certain hope that though we cannot yet see it, through our time of darkness, love is at work.

We are never alone. We the church are the Body of Christ. As He suffered so do we. At times He draws us closer to His Cross. Just as He is fully present with us and fully sharing every moment of our lives, so He gives us an active part in His Father’s saving plan. In His suffering on the Cross His love poured out and so in the suffering we – His Body – go through,  so His love also pours out. We cannot see the way out of the darkness but we can be sure love is at work and love has won the victory.

“I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and noone will take your joy from you.” John 16 v 22

“I will not abandon you”

“Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you,” says the Lord God (Isaiah 49 v 15)

These lines from the Bible came into my head just now. Thank you Jesus. It’s very hard to hang onto anything when everything I trusted in, so much – too much – seems to be taken away. The Lord alone suffices, St Teresa of Avila wrote. The Lord alone will never forget us and never fail us, even if His face is hidden from us for a little while. He loves us like a mother or a father, and more.

“When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” (Psalm 27). When everything else crumbles, when we are totally alone, still God who is love remains. One translation of the Aramaic actually says “Because my father and mother forsake me,”; “because” rather than “when”. The Lord knew we would be abandoned, and so, He never leaves us and He takes us up in His arms.

I struggle very much to pray when I feel as I do now. The hurt and obstacles and anger and frustration and alone-ness, all obscure my hope in God and too quickly I allow them to cloud who God is and who He created us to be. If all I run into is this pain, He must be angry, He must wish me punished, He must take pleasure in my pain. I must return to His Cross and return to listen to His Word in the Bible. This is God, not my pain of itself. Love surely brings pain, but it is not the pain and hurt and isolation itself.

And then in prayer, came my Jesus’s tender promise – “My gaze is longing love.”

Lullaby (5) – Makes my heart smile, to know that you give love so freely

I met my friend and her new baby B. today. She is perfect, beautiful, adorable, cuddly, with inquisitive eyes (when she woke up!), rosy little cheeks and already crowned with lots of soft black hair that loves to stick straight up and you can tell will soon make cute little bunches on top of her head.

There is something very special about the rush of love that fills me when I hold a little child. Much as I fear having my own children and fear I would not know what to do, would not know how to be gentle enough or how to keep my patience when they cry and cry or do not sleep the night for months, or how to know what they need, holding B. today the perfect trust she showed as she cooed and nestled in to me and went to sleep soundly, as though she had found a “safe place” of her own, pulled at my heart with protective love.  As she laid on my chest I knew it was a privilege to be loved by her unconditionally and to protect and adore her and wish to give her everything good.

And B. is not my child – how much more must those feelings be as a mother!

B’s mother, who has encountered with varying degrees of proximity many distressing family and childhood situations, including ill treatment and abuse, said that she has asked herself how inconceivable it is that anyone could ever do a child harm.

Part of me would long for my own family and I have been touched by love for and delight in my friends’ children, including my godchildren. Equally I am stunned that my friends did choose me as a godmother, being so sure myself that I do not have anything good to give and if only they knew how very bad inside and dangerous I really am. I even won’t go to spend time with my friend if her boys will be there, sometimes, because I am so afraid I might do something that hurt them – either unconsciously, in a dissociative state, or because I’m just bad really – or that I would only upset them. If I were a mother I’d be afraid I had no idea how to raise a child, what to give them, how to teach them, and that my patience would run out.

My fears intensified when I was babysitting years ago and the child I was caring for was in the midst of a tantrum and the voices in my head started telling me that I was going to hit her. I was terrified. So terrified that I shut the child in her room and myself into another room and left her alone crying because I thought that was safer than what I was going to do. I was very disturbed afterwards and starved myself in the following days as punishment. I have never babysat since. It was all the proof I needed how the evil was going to erupt from me.

Today B. slept in my arms. Today she just wanted cuddles and love. Today the love cast out some of the fear, whilst I held her. It really touched me that I had been open with my friend about some of the awful things going on in my head – my BPD, my hallucinations and obsessional thoughts – and still she wanted to come to see me and let me hold her child and trusted me.

“For perfect love casts out fear,” the Gospels say. In the moments that little baby melted the fear in my heart, I began to understand.

There’s a fight in my heart and my head right now because as soon as I left my friend and baby B., the anxiety grabbed at me and I’m terrified again; something cold and horrible is clutching at my chest. It’s as though all the knowledge that I’m bad and fears of the evil in me are redoubling their efforts to break me, so as to punish me for loving and trusting and being happy with B. Tonight’s going to be a very hard and scary night. I’m going to try to keep loving.

Ginny xx

This song by Vienna Teng, “Anna Rose”, speaks very much to me of the tender love between a parent and child and the delight children’s non-judgemental acceptance and trust gives us.