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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Honesty, and Forgiveness For It

Very recently, a Sister in the Lord approached me with an unwelcome "honesty," which I only received as most of us do, with a mental “touche.” I proceeded to share some hurtful but true “honesties” of my own. I proved beyond any shadow of doubt that when it comes to such things, no one could be more honest than me. And that is probably how we most often hurt the ones we love.

A Brother encouraged me, quite sympathetically, that complete, transparent honesty can sometimes lead to ruin, especially when conversing with members of the opposite sex. Still, sometimes a man has to get something off of his chest, and this is a good thing, as long he is doing it in the woods with no one around.

So the question is not whether we hurt one another, being painfully honest, but where do we go from there? Each time it happens. After all, this will only happen again as long as there are men. I am told that women are much more supportive and respectful for each other’s need for… tact, empathy and especially suspension of disbelief. If there were just women in the world, I have been told, there would be no guns or wars, or bars or need for government. So what are men supposed to do? The situation seems to call for one mass suicide.

Well, I ain’t goin’ THERE. First of all, to the Sister in question, I only plead guilty, with the confession that given these circumstances again, I would repeat it all, knowing all the while that Truth, or my version of it, can be a very hurtful thing. As one of my songs in this BLOG says, sometimes “TRUTH LIES TO ME.” But I offer this thought. You can have the superficial me, that nods and winks and never really listens or considers you, never takes you seriously, because honesty is too much of a minefield, and just tells you what you want to hear, or you can have the Me you have just met. All of the “truth” I just offered only spilled out after, what? An offering of frank criticism from, yes a woman of a far superior intellect, who should have known that men are basically insecure little boys with fragile egos who can dish it out, but cannot take it. Alas, women have egos too. Maybe we are more alike than we think.

Sadly, this whole needless, hurtful mess resulted out of, you guessed it, CHURCHWORK. In fact, it is an age-old temptation to let our worship services at church become like the world: a PRODUCTION, a veritable performance, and eventually a pit of snakes. But we are called to do better. To rise above personal difficulties. And we have a powerful God who will always help us in this department if we want help. In fact this is the true test of authenticity of the “Body.” As long as there are people, even women as good as they are, will have their estrangements. The way we love one another is EXACTLY how Christ said we could and should and would show the world we are… set apart. That we belong to Him; We are to be HOLY, different, changed, Born Again, as He called it. The mystery and the victory of the Christian experience is that in spite of our failures and “honesties,” and other quirks, we STILL LOVE ONE ANOTHER. And we do.

I love the person, who happens to be a female, who offered unsolicited remarks, and she can love and FORGIVE me, not because either one of us deserves it, but because our ability to forgive IS the will of God, what He has given us, what He accomplished on the Cross, just for these moments, and it is a natural reaction of people who know what forgiveness is, to share what has been purchased in blood for them.

So we can easily choose to RECEIVE the “honesties” of our Brothers and Sisters in Christ, do as we are instructed in Scripture and consider ourselves less than others, and use them if we can to become better disciples, and choose to go on, to continue to love one another. I suppose the greatest indicator of true friends is the ability, the permission to say those hard, even hurtful things to one another, trusting they will be understood in the spirit of trust that it is given. In fact when you are at that precipice of reaming someone out when they really need it, you are a hair’s breadth away from being… or becoming their best friend. Whether they know it or not, or ever appreciate it. Many times they do not. At least not initially. That goes for me as well, the big one for such necessary reamings.

The pitfall here is when we misjudge, and admonish someone we thought, perhaps prematurely, was a close friend, only to find out they did not want THAT close a friend. The openness for that intimate kind of reciprocity was not yet formed.

Still, in all sincerity, it is a tribute to someone for me to engage at that level.

That is why I have a generous portion of dear, intimate, best friends. Some people, the wise ones, learn to listen, forgive and trust, at least a few proven individuals, who can be counted on to protect them from themselves. My closest friends are those whom I have given permission to stab me in the heart, or whatever is necessary, to aid in the Sanctification of my SOUL. If you have never had such a one as this, your life probably hurts from the lack of it.

When the prophets of old spoke, they made very few friends in the process. They were rejected, chased, challenged, lied about, and killed for their “honesties.” As a lay pastor/ prophet/ elder, whatever one wants to call me, in a similar way I have to be willing to say the hard words when no one else will. “Whom God loves He chastens.” We should all consider ourselves most blessed to be grafted into such a functioning Body, which provides this lifeblood of Truth and thus a gateway for Holiness. It is God’s instrument for all of us to face each of our personal demons and barriers to Him, through the examples, teachings and yes, honesties shared within… Except unlike the sheep of old, we refrain from stoning our shepherds. Even one as worthy as I.

Jesus saw himself as the shepherd, and us as herd creatures. And we need to sometimes yield to the lessons of herd life. It takes a lot of misbehavior for a member of the herd to be expelled from it. Horses can kick and bite the snot out of each other, and the next minute can forget all about it and be running as one. He expects no less from us. He has already worked out the details and punishments.

His goad, or shepherd's staff can hurt, and is hardly ever a welcome sight. Bizarrely, in God’s upside down way, reproach or correction is, or can be our ticket out of here. Sometimes He lays it on pretty thick. That means He means business, He has not given up, and it means there is still hope for us! So beat me up some more Sister! I think I can take it better next time. At least I am going to try. I hope you can too.

Your Servant in Christ,
Russell Cushman

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