Thursday, March 02, 2006

1st forgiveness - The Stone Throwers

Yesterday I completed my first Lenten forgiveness (see prior post). I don't think I will talk about each one here, but as I started with what I thought was a "little one", I'll tell the great amorphous "you" about it.

I really had no idea where to start, so I got quiet and decided that I would respect the first memorythat came to mind, letting my soul decide what that would be. I immediately had a memory of the long-forgotten stone throwers. I knew that this occasion must need some healing or I would not have recalled it in this context. Trust the emergent image.

My family moved to our first house when I was 5, leaving apartment life behind. My folks bought a home in a small, largely blue-collar town of less than 20,000 in Western Massachusetts, nestled in the Berkshires. I had just started school in the fall, and it was the day of the first winter snowstorm. I was walking home from school, as I did every day. When I was about two blocks from home, some kids started chasing me and throwing snowballs at me and yelling ,"Dirty Polack! Go back to Poland! Polack! Polack!" They threw snowballs that had rocks inside them. One hit my ear as I ran home, terrified. I was less than a block from home. I fell down screaming in pain-- at which point they ran away. I saw two of them and knew who they were.

My mother was beside herself when I told her. My ear was ringing and sore and she ran me to the doctor immediately. There was no lingering physical damage. We then came home and told my father. My father was known for his legendary wrath. In this one instance it worked in my favor. He went to the home of the two brothers that I had recognized. They lived nearby. My father spoke to their father and said very clearly that if his sons ever touched a hair on my head again, that he would kill them. The boys said, "You'll go to jail if you do!" My father looked them and their father straight in the eyes and said "I don't care. It would be worth it," and left.

They never bothered me again.

But they had damaged me -- not where anyone could see. I had never had anyone suggest that my ethnic background was bad before - but in this little town I was to experience many such examples of prejudice. This was, after all, the town in which my grandparents had had crosses burned on their lawn by the KKK because they were Polish Catholic immigrants.

So last night I sat quietly and forgave those boys for being stupid and cruel. I told God that in forgiving them, I hoped that any damage done by them could be healed and undone. I asked for healing for the little girl inside me who didn't feel safe. And I asked that if these boys had become men who hated people because of prejudice, that their prejudice be lifted.

In forgiving, I found myself praying for these two bullies. It was a powerful moment.

I began to understand that part of forgiveness is to allow the undoing of damage.

I struggle for a working definition of forgiveness and would welcome any thoughts about it...

8 Comments:

Blogger see-through faith said...

thank you (also for the link on my site it was very very good)

be so blessed as you journey to the cross this lent

you are a beautiful child of God - and my prayer for you is that God continues to restore what those boys tried to steal those years ago

because YOU ARE WORTH IT. Jesus says so!

2:43 PM  
Blogger LutheranChik said...

Isn't it funny how those endless-loop tapes of past injustices keep playing over and over again in our heads?

For me, I think I've forgiven people in my past, but at certain times in my life the old images and feelings they evoke come back to bother me.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Mata H said...

Thank you, see-through. I am also happy you found the link helpful.

Lutheranchik - it was odd that the picture of those boys was so clear to me. I think those things/events/internalizations that keep us apart from God are like weeds with long branching tap roots - so that even though what those boys did was 50 years ago, somehow they became part of a network of things that separate us from parts of God's love.

3:10 PM  
Blogger samtzmom said...

You don't forgive someone merely for their sake; you do it for your sake so you can be free. Your need to forgive isn't an issue between you and the
offender; it's between you and God. Forgiveness is agreeing to live with consequences of another person's sin. Forgiveness is costly; we pay the
price of the evil we forgive. Yet you're going to live with those consequences whether you want to or not; your only choice is whether you will
do so in the bitterness of unforgiveness or the freedom of forgiveness. Forgiveness deals with your pain, not another's behavior.
Neil T. Anderson

--------------

My cousin sent me the above writing some time ago, and I kept it in a file I call "Inspiration" to remind me that forgiveness really isn't about the other person, but more so that we can be free. I think your desire to tackle this very painful issue for Lent is so wonderful Mata.

4:12 PM  
Blogger Maggie Rose said...

beautifully expressed, mata. I agree these weeds keep us from closeness to God and her/his love of us. but we don't necessarily plant those weeds so becoming aware of them and then weeding becomes a very important task of everyone's lives, imo.

such an excellent blog!

Maggie

4:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aahh, yes, the stone throwers. Be they young or old, it is fear that motivates these. Fear of the unknown or fear of something or someone who may appear different. They rationalize their actions as a form of self-protection. Stoning can show itself in many various forms.

I have very recently had to sort through emotions and personal damage and internal "bruising" to come to a place of forgiveness. "Stoning" can occur without a stone ever being lifted and hurled. When the many grip fear as their arrow of choice at one single target void of knowledge or understanding, the result can be devastating.

A question that has plagued me for months is how to forgive, continue to walk among these and yet attempt to correct the horrid wrong that has been perpetrated. This particular lesson in forgiveness is one that I prefer to pass on. And yet it is mine to bear and negotiate. I don't think that one can blindly "kiss and make up". There are, at times, possible legal ramifications because of "stoners" having gone too far into an illegal arena. Although we may walk forth from the situation appearing as though unharmed, the truth is quite different. We are left to bear the burden.

Having no anger toward God, I find what remains is anger toward the "stoners". Do I have to like them? I hesitate, because I do not care to live among people who are so filled with fear. What I believe that I must do, is to forgive the sinner but not the sin. I must look beyond the "bruising" and recognize the "stoners" as brothers and sisters in my own eternal family. They are me, I am them and we are God.

Religionfree

5:58 PM  
Blogger Miss Eagle said...

I think time is somehow part of the forgiveness thing. I am intrigued by the title of your blog because I am convinced that we mere mortals do not understand time - and certainly not in the way God does and not in the context of the word "eternity". It took you 50 years to get to the place of forgiveness for an ancient hurt. I wonder about forgiveness too quickly given. It seems to me that in the matter of forgiveness there is a journey of learning which needs to precede it. This cannot happen quickly. I have lived in and around aboriginal communities for a significant part of my life. I feel that they have a different understanding of the word "sorry" than we whitefellas who can use it so flippantly. To me, it seems there is a true understanding of setting things right for the future; of eradication of shame and the building of future trust. I believe a true understanding of forgiveness might be a bottomless pit - going to the depths of our being involving memories, experience, empathy, and self-care. But it certainly is worthy of exploration and your Lenten example is a shining light in the darkness.

7:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did a search for an answer to a bingo question on netscape and found this blog, and this rediculous Mecca bingo song/video...Brace yourselves!.
Bingo Video. First I discovered Berryz and C-ute and Mesume, now this super huge chic group...What next!

3:25 AM  

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