Living in Print

A few days ago I wrote a post about the passing of someone I used to know.

A friend of ours, Dan, asked Stephen the day I posted it if it was weird writing about personal stuff here on the website with so many loltreckers and toilet fixers stopping by. Stephen and I talked about it on Thursday night at dinner and the answer to that is no. Here’s why.

I debated about writing that particular post at all. I wanted to write down a couple of the good memories that I had of him even though I still had some unresolved feelings about him. My own memorial, I guess. I talked to LanaBob! on Friday and she reminded me of several other things that I had actually forgotten. She remembers them because she and I were just becoming friends when my mom and this man were dating. So it was good to chat with her about it and be reminded that relationships are complex and not always resolved in neat little packages when someone dies, and that there isn’t always a chance to say “Goodbye” or “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you”.

But I also wanted for people to know that I struggle with stuff even though I am a Christian. The feelings and thoughts that I had as a non-Christian didn’t just disappear when I became a Christian. This is a big deal to me because I spent a lot of years pretending that I didn’t have those non-Christian thoughts and feelings. I really thought that I could personally will away all my bad feelings toward others and, by strength of will, forgive. It doesn’t work that way.

All these changes take prayer. A lot of it, and remarkably enough, it’s not necessarily prayer for God to change me. (Some of them are and those never hurt.) A lot of the prayers are about getting outside of myself and praying for the other person. No, it’s not prayer that they change either. Wouldn’t it be great if it worked that way, though? It’s prayer for their wellbeing and their spiritual growth and their safekeeping and it can’t be out of spite. It has to be prayed with gratitude for my own forgiveness. Something happens when I am praying good things for someone I have a hard time forgiving. I start seeing them through God’s eyes and gradually I can, maybe not forget what happened, but start putting it behind me.

This is the part that I didn’t talk about it that post. I hadn’t been doing that for him. I had been nursing my anger at him and carrying it around because I felt foolish for trusting him again. Forgiveness isn’t something we do for others, it’s something that we do that builds character in us. It’s about God teaching us about his forgiveness of us. So I’ll be working on that now. It seems pretty silly to be angry at a dead person. I’m guessing I’m going to have to let this stuff go.

Talking about what’s real for me so people can see it is why I post the personal (uncomfortable) stuff here. It lets people know me better and it keeps me honest. (And I didn’t do a good job with that in that post because I didn’t want to talk openly about forgiveness.) It is my personal journal made public. I owe a lot of my desire to do that to Heather Armstrong. She is a master of telling her story with humor and grace. I wish I were half so competent but I’m much too serious and have a hard time finding the funny sometimes. And writing these things here remind me that I have an internal life that doesn’t involve my kids. It’s pretty easy to get subsumed in the mommy lifestyle. Stephen and I also talked about what we would post and our rule is to never post anything we would mind our mothers reading. And isn’t that just a good rule for living life in general?

So there is your answer, Dan. It was probably way longer than you wanted to read but I’m glad that you asked the question and that I heard it second-hand because it made me finish my thinking on the topic. Thanks.

4 thoughts on “Living in Print

  1. Wow, what an honest post! You are so right about forgiveness; I’ve struggled a lot with it in the past also.
    Thanks for being vulnerable and putting this out there. I believe we all need to be more forgiving and unselfish.
    Love ya!

  2. I appreciate your initial post and this follow-up, and your sensitivity to your readers. But these are universal issues for all thinking humans, Christian, other religion, agnostic, or atheist. We all have world views and try to conform ourselves to them–trying in the process to change those things about ourselves that we want to improve or just obliterate because we find that trait (or those traits) counterproductive or even abhorrent. The question is always how to manage that change–unless one believes that one is predestined through biology or divine fiat to damnation (failure) and therefore attempting change is useless.

    Age has convinced me that we begin believing in our peculiarity (call it selfishness, self-centeredness, ego-centrism, or just narcissism) and mature (if we do) to a more holistic view of the world in which we see more of the similarities and count them more important. Men and women have physical and psychological differences, for example, but they are more similar than different. Emphasizing similarities smooths life’s roughness for everyone.

    As to the original issue, my own experience is that anger is a symptom of personal hurt rather than the moral indignation I would prefer, since it would convey to me the moral high ground. I consider myself something of a rationalist, but my experience tells me that I’m something of a mystic instead. Although those who know remind me that I’m strong-willed, and although May’s favorite psychologist says that these things are choices, I’ve never found willpower adequate to produce the kind of change I seek. As a Christian, I’m still trying to learn the fullness of the angels’ oft-repeated injunction “Fear not” and John’s observation that “perfect love casts out fear.” I’ve not made it yet. But when I’m most successful, I find that it’s more the work of the Holy Spirit, the promised Comforter, than it is willpower. But I find that generally I resist those ministrations because I’m really more comfortable as I am and don’t really WANT to change, however much I SAY I do. I’m still immature and selfish enough that I fear He will ask me to do something I don’t want to do, the thing that’s farthest from my desire. Even when I can see that I’m better off surrendering to the love instead of wallowing in the anger and make the change, I have a hard time remembering that lesson and how much better life was. That’s why I daily find myself confessing sins and asking forgiveness and the grace to live a better life in particular areas so that I can be a better witness to God and His power. Each morning I get up ready to change, and every day my selfishness and pride get in the way so that by nightfall I have to confess again. But over time, God’s grace provides progress and incremental change. My temper isn’t nearly what it was when I was younger, for example! So for me, Christianity offers a chance to deal successfully with the things I want to change–though it also threatens to change things with which I’m more comfortable (but also need to change). It provides a focus external to myself and commandments to view others as kin, not judge others, and hate the sin but love the sinner. In short, it asks me to make the lives around me better rather than always asking only “what’s in it for me.” Amazingly, when I can do that, mine’s better as well. Guess that’s what’s the seeming riddle that those who would find their lives must lose them is all about.

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