I’ve written approximately (well, exactly, actually) three unpublished end-of-lent-hello-easter-thanks-be-to-joan-for-all-the-fodder-for-reflection posts. This is the fourth and this is the one that’s actually going to get published and it’s going to be nothing like those other three. Because they were all full to the brim with words, but lacking in genuine-ness.
Delete. Delete. Delete.
We all deserve better than that.
Better than vague-eries. Something more down-to-earth, personal, relate-able.
So let’s start with this morning.
This morning I got my face chewed off. (Metaphorically, of course, I life in Wisconsin where cud-chewing cows far outnumber face-chewing jungle cats.) Right away. First thing. Hello office, what’s the message on today’s page-a-day calendar… BAM.
My attacker, which is an over-dramatic way of saying it to be sure, got POed at the end of the day yesterday, but said nothing, and had all evening, all night, and all of the early morning to whip that anger up into quite the frenzy and went all out first thing. Instant headache.
And over nothing, actually. A case of mistaken identity, in fact. But on account of all the whipping and the frenzying, there was still a lot of yelling and complaining and negativity. And not just to me. Also about me to others. It’s too much! My shoulders are basically attached to my ears. My head won’t stop pounding. And I let it get me all kinds of whipped up too.
So in my next meeting, when I had the chance to vent to someone I thought likely to be understanding, I did. And he said, “speak life! Have you heard that song?”
I had not.
So he pulled it up on his phone. So great: Toby Mac – Speak Life
The message was exactly what I needed to hear. And then we discussed how we both wished my attacker (over-dramatic, again and as usual) could be happier. Calmer. More at peace.
More able to speak life, whatever that would take.
It was kind of nice.
Before Lent even began, I read a book published by the creator of the Church Health Center in Memphis, TN. I loved the book so much, and I’ve told you about it before. What I haven’t really talked about yet, although I’ve embraced it in its entirety, is the Church Health Center’s focus on the seven virtues described by Paul in Colossians 3:12-14.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, wholly and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you have a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Quite frankly, striving toward any one of those qualities hardly leaves room for allowing frenzied anger to become like a Dole Whip at Disneyland (like you don’t know what I’m talking about) and the notion of “speaking life” speaks to that whole heartedly.
Getting angry and whining about it to someone else hardly embodies compassion. Certainly not kindness or humility. And gentleness and patience? Absolutely not. Least of all forgiveness and love. Speaking life does.
And most importantly, in this Easter season, and especially today on Good Friday as we reflect on the crucifixion of Jesus, we would do well to remember that these virtues are exactly what his life stood for. (Yes, yes, yes… I say “we” like I’m being all wise, but honestly, you and I both know that I am the one who would do well to remember this fact… yes? It’s really not that wise, it’s 100% selfish, but there you have it. Anyway.) These are the characteristics that he embodied (love especially, the binding agent) and that he asks us to, at the very least, work real hard toward embodying ourselves.
No matter our spiritual tradition, or lack thereof, I think it’s fair to say that these are virtues we all admire, regardless of our color or creed, religion, philosophy, nationality, shoe size, or handedness. (Fun fact: in chemistry, S- and R- isomers are based on the Latin words sinister and rectus meaning left and right, respectively, because left handedness was considered evil and scary and sinister. Hence, the inclusion of handedness in this list here for all my readers trapped in the 1300s. Fascinating, right?) As such, I think it’s also fair to say that when it really boils down to it, we all want the same thing. Goodness and love, kindness, patience, forgiveness, gentleness and compassion. Light.
And interestingly, at the beginning of the Gospel according to John (because I skipped ahead to the New Testament for an Easter interlude), John describes God as bringer of life and life as the light of mankind. (Math math math… commutative property… if a = b and b = c, then a = c.) So, if God = life and life = the light of mankind, then God = the light of mankind. God is light, God is good.
And that leads me to my second favorite thing to think about when I think about my spiritual life… the notion that God is good. Always. No matter what. (Totally stolen from the brilliant Jeannett at Life Rearranged, which I love so much, but she seems like the type who probably wouldn’t mind and, in fact, would be likely to deny that her seemingly simple phrase completely changed my life. It did though. For seriously.) Like our common ground based on the seven virtues. I think this notion of God being good is also true no matter what, where “no matter what” can equal anything — color, creed, religion, philosophy, nationality, shoe size, or handedness. Always, in fact.
So those are the things I remind myself of every single day. Try to, anyway. I’d love for it to be a bitty little tattoo on my inner wrist, but given Seth’s opposition to me inking anything on my body anywhere and his exceptional willingness to put up with a lot of other crap, I have settled for bracelets:
I’m missing a couple virtues still, but I’m working on it. I’ll find the rest. One glance down and I’ll remember:
One glance down, every day and all the time, I will remember what Good Friday was about, and more importantly, what Easter Sunday really means. I will remember that I have goals, goals beyond those of the workplace or the home or the physical world in general– goals related to my spiritual well-being, goals related to the kind of person that I want to be. One who embodies compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love. Always.
And in those moments, when I am reminded, I can practice. Alas, I am human, so in this case practice will undoubtedly never make perfect, but it can make me better and I think that’s worth trying for. As far as I can tell, a lot of us are trying.
So when I got angry, angry, angry this morning, someone else whose giving it his best shot reminded me of those virtues. And maybe I’ll get a chance to return the favor. Or maybe not, maybe I’ll get a chance to pay it forward instead. Honestly, compassion, forgiveness, love… that stuff feels a lot better.
And as the Lenten season ends and I stop reflecting on the other-worldly and come more soundly back to earth in the hilarious (because seriously, I’m hilarious, right?) space I occupied on Fat Tuesday and before, I plan to tell you about what Satan thinks of forgiveness. Because I just finished reading his (Satan’s) book about it. And it was le fascinating.
In other words, book review of I, Lucifer coming up very shortly.
In the meantime, Lord give me strength not to destroy my insides with Cadbury eggs!
Happy Easter, my friends!!