Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Depend on God : Chapter 6 of The Hole in Our Gospel

The Hole in Me

In Chapter 6, Mr. Stearns describes how he came to believe in God.  It was not an easy road for him.   He learned at a young age that he'd have to rely on himself and not his parents (nonpracticing Catholics).   This made it difficult to believe in God, and for a long time, he didn't.   He learned to depend on himself alone, which developed into a sort of Religion of self.  Eventually a book given to him by a friend a few years before found its way out of a box and open onto his lap on a boring Saturday evening.   That book awakened a curiosity in him and he asked for recommendations of other books and so on...

The study guide encouraged us to reflect on how our own childhoods affected our faith development.   I long ago told you here how my daddy was a wonderful father whose example could help me see how God could be angry in the Old Testament and loving in the New Testament.  My daddy would get scary angry if I did something stupid that could have had bad results (playing with knives, trying to leave the house on my own at age three to visit neighbors when mom was busy, standing on ledges, running with scissors, the usual stuff).  A couple of times he spanked me, but mostly he'd get a look on his face that would have struck terror in a saber tooth tiger.   Seriously.

I also had a mom prayed for me and who would try to guide me into being kind and forgiving even when I was hurt, like Jesus.  Unfortunately my dear daddy was as protective of me being hurt by others as he was of me being hurt by myself, and discouraged me from forgiving.  I remember being told by him that when I turned the left cheek, I should be pulling my arm into a right cross as well.   English was my daddy's second language.  That is the only explanation I really have for him telling me "Forgiving makes you weak."  It dawned on me a couple of weeks ago that I couldn't believe a friend forgave me (and therefore forgive myself) because I wouldn't have forgiven her if the tables were turned.   I was far more vulnerable from not forgiving than I would be if I was forgiving.   Then it dawned on me: my daddy wasn't deriding me for being week.   He was beseeching me not to allow myself to be vulnerable, but used the wrong word. He was always worried about me getting hurt, so of course he worried that by forgiving others, I would leave myself vulnerable to those who would only keep on hurting me.   He was a great earthly daddy, but he wasn't God.   He couldn't know that I would spend years unable to forgive myself for the smallest transgression because it was only fair that if I would not forgive others, I should not forgive myself either.

I, too, had my own part to play in this.  I chose to depend on the wisdom of my earthly father (a good and wise man, btw) rather than that of my Heavenly Father.   Mr. Stearns depended on himself instead of  God in his early years, while I was blessed with a great dad whom I depended on, long after he was gone.  I am grateful for his guidance and good example.   It is my own fault that I depended on him rather than Him.

Other thoughts on this chapter are being shared on my friend Jason's blog.   Go check it out.


jasonS said...

Wow, Helen. So much insight here. "It is my own fault that I depended on him rather than Him." I thought to myself, there's a reason why God's 'Him" is capitalized. Forgiveness does make us weak and vulnerable, but God says His strength is perfected in that weakness. Great post. Thanks for being so open in your sharing.

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