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Lenten Devotion - day 12

Part of my work these days includes something I call “Lawn Chat.” It started off as my attempt to get to know people in my church since I arrived during the pandemic. It was quite literally a chat with whomever showed.

As time went on, it transformed into some beautiful bouquet of teaching, study, theology, Scripture, history, and more. It’s less chatty, because I talk most of the time, but I still call them “Lawn Chats.”

Often people will come with a question about God, or the Bible, or some difficulty in their lives, and they feel safe in the space, so we deal with profound things. Today someone asked me to talk about rejection and forgiveness.

One person commented in the course of the conversation that they realized how much rejection, and the lasting pain of that rejection, has made them who they are today. If I was doing group therapy that would be something. But I’m not.

I wish for people to encounter the Divine Love that heals us from our wounds that keep us trapped. I wish for people to be free from the pains of their past that dictate their present. And, the person who brought up the topic initially wanted that too. That person didn’t want to deal with rejection only, but the forgiveness that moves us past the pain of being rejected…

Let me explain what I mean by rejection. When I was a child in elementary school, I remember one morning there was a younger girl crying alone when we were all headed to class after the bell rang. I went to her to see if she needed help. She told me, “I spilled my bowl of cereal this morning. Milk and cereal went everywhere. My mom ran into the kitchen and yelled at me. She said she never wanted me anyway.”

That’s the kind of rejection I mean. The kind of rejection that makes us feel unworthy, unloved, and as if our existence doesn’t matter. The kind of rejection that causes us to prove ourselves worthy of love to any and all we meet. The kind of rejection that whispers to us we aren’t even worthy of our own love.

Lent is a time of examination. What has caused us and kept us from being those who are Christ-like? Jesus believed we can be like him, but when we experience rejection (especially at a young age) we stop believing we can be like Christ, because we don’t even feel we can be loved.

Jesus always knew he was loved. In the synoptic gospels, God the Father only speaks twice. Both times God tells Jesus exactly who he was, “My son, the Beloved.” It is what God says to you too. That is who you are, nothing else and nothing less. Yet, so many hurt us, and we know why. They hurt us because they are hurt too, and they often never know it. They’ve tried to become someone who is worthy of love, and so in their own pain of never meeting the made-up qualifications of worth, they cause pain in others. They reject the belovedness in others, because the belovedness in themselves has been rejected.

To know ourselves as loved by God, as the very beloved of God, means we can know we are love. That doesn’t mean that others will treat us as love, but it does mean we can always be love. The hardest thing to do is to love those who hurt us. Love doesn’t mean opening ourselves to being hurt by them again, but it might. Love means forgiving them however.

Forgiveness is a complex and ongoing process, and a healing one at that. It requires patience, self-compassion, and a willingness to let go of anger and resentments. For 12-step groups forgiveness takes a couple of steps, because any 12-step group knows that there is no healing from our addictions without forgiveness… there is no healing without forgiveness.

Lent takes us to the place where we believe God forgives us no matter what, the cross. Jesus’ teachings suggest that forgiveness is not only a way to show compassion towards others, but also a means of freeing ourselves from judgment and condemnation, and cultivating a sense of inner peace and healing. So, we walk together to the cross where we are forgiven and freed, where we are at peace.

Until tomorrow my friend,