life between the pages

“I spent my life folded between the pages of books.
In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.”
Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Humility and a Secure Future

Reading "God Never Blinks." Regina Brett has so much to offer to a world down on its luck, seemingly running out of time, with so much to worry about. With plans scattered like so many specks of dust to places invisible, it's much too easy to forget our basis for faith, and how to reach out and hold on to what has kept us going in the past. Taking one more step forward sometimes feels too damned hard, and hardly worth it. After all, why wake up to one more day of struggle? Isn't it better to just roll over and hit the snooze button? "Forget about life for awhile"?

Why yes, actually. Sometimes that's exactly what we should do.

Life of Agony reminds us exactly what it's like to be worn out and in dire need of escape, maybe with a bit more of an edge than Billy Joel did, but the message is the same. Sometimes we do need to just get it all out in order to forget how bad it all is. And that's okay. But after that, there's something else that's the spiritual and emotional equivalent of clearing the air so we can breathe again.

It's called forgiveness.

Ms. Brett has a bumper sticker that says, "God Bless the Whole World. No Exceptions." She goes on to tell us "Forgive Everybody Everything." I can vouch for the goodness in that. There is nothing anyone's done to me that's worth the spiritual and emotional turmoil of holding a grudge. Nobody's worth eating up my liver over. Nobody gets to be that powerful over me and my life, and as far as I know, nobody really wants to be.

This is not to say nobody's mistreated me. Far from it. Like a lot of people, I'm one of the "walking wounded." But you know what? That just means I've learned a few things. It doesn't mean anyone owes me anything. That honor belongs to - you guessed it - just me.

For about five minutes, it does me good to get angry and rant and spout out all the venom and bile that some peoples' actions incite. But after that, it's good to just put all that away and move on, looking around to see the good things that are still surrounding my world and reminding me that it's never too late to put down that burden and step forward into the light. In fact, if I don't, it's just going to get heavier and heavier the longer I forget to do so.

"Forgiveness is giving up all hope of a better past. At first that sounds harsh, but once you let go of what you wanted the past to be, you can start changing the present and create a better future," Ms. Brett writes in Lesson 28. Well, duh. Why didn't I figure that out already? Sometimes we need people to point out the obvious, so we can clear the smudges from our eyes and actually see what we're looking at. You can't move beyond something, or stop being a victim, until you stop calling yourself a loser, and take back your own power over situations. Forgive, and then forget. Choose life, and remove yourself from that pain. Put it down. Let it go.

Here's a gem of real value, and I'm putting it here where I'll remember to come back and read it from time to time:

Humility is perpetual quietness of heart.
It is to have no trouble.
It is never to be fretted or vexed, irritable or sore; to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me.
It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised, it is to have a blessed home in myself where I can go in and shut the door and kneel to my Father in secret and be at peace, as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and about is seeming trouble.
--Dr. Bob, co-founder of AA and the Twelve-Step Program

Well then. Today is my lucky day. Yours, too! Go out there and forgive somebody. And then treat yourself to a big slice of that pie called Life. There's very little you can do that will more strongly ensure control of your own destiny. And what's more secure than that?

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