DJ's Book Rants

A Seminary student and pastor trying to find an outlet for all the books he has to read.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Reconciling Differences

Chapters 6 and 7 on forgiveness reshaped my understanding of the subject. The definitions provided for repentance and confession in chapter 6 were insightful. The confession grid (figure 6.2) on page 137 brought depth to the true complexity of a confession. Even when a confession is made there may be a limited amount of remorse or intention to change. On the other hand an authentic apology which includes the offenders plan to change is both remorseful and committed to change. I was able to see direct examples of this chart in my own marriage. My favorite mode of confession has always been “account giving.” I will admit my fault as long as the other person realizes their part, or assumes primary responsibility. In retrospect I can see that I have little intention of changing my actions.

Chapter 7 provided a workable and practical understanding of how forgiveness can be accepted. Each of the stations rang true, but at the same time I had never put the whole process together. I see insight as a station in forgiveness that is often elusive and sometimes a stumbling block. Finding the true cause of the problem can often be hard. The blame or root cause of the problem maybe put in the wrong spot. For Gabriella and Chad they believed the cause of the problem was "the arrogance of our innocence.” In an effort to stop this chain the couple was intentional about educating their children about the affair and the “arrogance of innocence.” Because of our natural defense mechanisms it seems like it would be easy to offer a true but safe cause. I could say I caused great pain in our marriage by continuing the family addiction to work. Work can become the identified problem when truly the deeper issue is that I have an overwhelming need to achieve.

I found the key word in the second station of forgiveness to be empathy. To understand why a partner has harmed his or her spouse requires empathy. When a person has been wounded and feels the full pain of the offense it is hard to imagine themselves doing such a thing. To walk in the offenders shoes requires what Holeman calls an “understanding of who we are.” Until the offended can understand the struggles and brokenness of the offender they will have the temptation of demonizing them. I have experience this in more than just the marriage relationship. When I am at odds with someone and do not understand how they could act in such away I do not see them for “who they are.” I see them as evil and full of evil intentions. However when I see behind they actions into their heart and mind my perspective is often changed.

Hospitality is a bridge many couples are never able to cross. This station must be initiated by the person who has been wronged. They are the only ones who can invite the guilty part back into relationship. For Gabriella this meant verbalizing her commitment, embracing relocation, and praying together. They action invite Chad into the reconciliation relationship and make future progress possible. I can see that the list of actions could vary greatly from couple to couple.

Without Holeman’s direction I would have never seen “giving opportunity for compensation” as a station. I would have taken for granted that when the transgressor makes attempts at compensation they will be accepted. After further reflection I can see that this would not always be the case. The injured party needs to committee to having what I would call, “eyes to see” the attempts of their partner. Without this commitment I would imagine that no compensation is going to count or make up for what has been done. In reality the compensation is not paying off the debt, but is rebuilding the relationship.

I appreciated the fact that the “overt act of forgiving” comes last. We I have been the offending party I have often wanted this to be the first station in the process. After I lay out all the details of my wrong doing and repentance I would like my spouse to cancel my debt. However, it is only after the work of forgiveness has taken place that the right environment for debt cancellation is truly present. I will now be able to suggest a better process to other couples and be more patient in my own marriage.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Gift of the Red Bird

This was not a book to be studied; it was an experience to be enjoyed. Paula D’Arcy brought me into her life with all its pain and victory. I was so engulfed in her world that I could not help but listen to what she had to say. If she would have started with her wilderness experience I would have been skeptical and guarded. Instead, by the time she was talking to the animals I was willing to believe any of her experiences. Her honesty and vulnerability come out on paper with a heart gripping grace. I took a journey in my own life as I walked with her through this book.
On page 15 she said, “How unexpected to discover that the mind only supplied knowledge about God.” It would be an under statement to say that I primarily seek God through my mind. This phrase acted for me as a frame work from which to understand D’Arcy’s perspective and agenda in the book. At this point I was reminded of other authors who have used the phrase, “Knowing about God is not knowing God.”

When her husband and daughter died I felt drawn into the crash. Just as she never saw it coming, and her life changed in the blink of an eye, so did the tone of her book. Her grappling for an authentic relationship with God was raw, real, and inspiring. I longed for her to connect with God, and to find comfort. Then just as she finds God, a turning point takes place in their relationship. God will not allow her to believe anything is more important than their relationship. In a sense I believe God needs her to know that she cannot use or control him. She wants a natural birth more than she wants the will of God. In fact, she makes God the lord of her life in that moment before her baby is born. I have wrestled with God in similar fashion. I desired all the benefits of a relationship with him, but when he asked me to put him first above all else I ran. However, I got tired of running and wrestling, and I thank God that he was persistent.

D’Arcy’s next section took dead aim at the core of my greatest weakness. She laid bare the reality that ministry can drive people far away from the God they serve. Only after months in bed does she realize that what she has been missing out in the world is not what is most important. She realizes that many things run her life before God can even get a word in edge wise. She learns in those months to start listening to God in her surroundings. The noise of the world is so loud and it makes us so deaf that it took months before she even realized what she had been missing. This section cut me to the core and made me take a long look at my priorities and my schedule. God has his scheduled time each day, but it is always on my terms. I realized how impoverished I make my life by not keeping my eyes and ears open to what God is doing and saying.

The “Quest” as D’Arcy calls it was the most vivid and enchanting section of her book. In a way I felt all her work was building towards this climax. She is about to have an encounter with the living God on his terms; and all alone. I found it interesting that she had so many chances to cut corners and to turn back, but she felt compelled by God to finish her quest. I identified with her fasting experience. I have fasted for 3 days before and it is always during the first day that I want to give up. By the second day I have found peace of mind, body, and soul. As she struggled with her aloneness on page 96 I though of my own insecurity. I enjoy being alone and can’t remember the last time I was bored. However, I tried to put myself in her shoes and I wondered if I would feel the same loneliness. I considered weather I had ever put myself in a place where it was just God and I with no escape. At first I relished in the idea, but as I read on I realized it would be a time of fear a trembling. With no where to hide I would be forced to face exactly who I am and who I try to be.

The Gift of the Red Bird ended for me with a challenge to live closer to God and his creation. In a sense I felt like someone had awoken me from a deep slumber. It has been almost a month since I read the book. I wish I could say I have applied everything I learned, but I have changed in small ways. I have started smelling my food before I eat it. I have started noticing the birds in our neighbor hood. I have embraced the fall season during my jogs around the block. Each time I do these things I am asking for God to make himself known to me. I desire to be a person who realizes that they are apart of God creation, and not the only part that God can speak through.