"Be prepared at all times for the gifts of God and be ready always for new ones. For God is a thousand times more ready to give than we are to receive."
~ Meister Eckhart
I read the above quote just before heading out to work at Cathechism classes at church today. After only a few hours sleep last night I was not at all enthused about going. My bed felt far too comfortable and my body weary. But I read this and prayed to be open.
We are a very small parish. There are only 3 children who attend Mass with any regularity. So it was wonderful to hear the sounds of over 20 children fill the sanctuary this morning and even greater to see them enthused throughout the day. Many of these children's grandparents or great grandparents were once regular attendees in our parish. Through quarrels and misunderstandings quite a few of their descendants stopped coming and those hard feelings are still festering. Insensitive priests, misunderstandings between parishioners, and who knows what all, lies between the faith of the generations. Only yesterday I heard the story of one family who left the church because of a mean spirited comment made by the priest in the midst of the Mass. A comment he stopped the Mass to make. I don't blame them for walking out 30 years ago and I believe that there comes a day when one has to take responsibility for nursing a grudge for so long.
One of the activities the children did today was to go outside and pick a rock to symbolize how hardened we can let our hearts get. Then they used play dough to make a shape that symbolized a softer heart. During the course of the day I over heard one little girl look resentfully at a group of boys, who were doing their best to make her miserable, and say, "They make my heart so hard." I hear you, sister.
I have my own issues with hardening my heart. Every day is an opportunity to release a bit of that hardness. Today was no exception. After classes were over and I was on to other things, someone commented on one of my glaring character defects while I was in the midst of repeating it for the umpteenth time. I found myself shutting down emotionally lickety split. It wasn't too long before I was sitting in silence and brooding. I thought to myself, "I'm nursing a grudge." My next thought was about how I really had no desire to let go of it....nursing it felt rather good. Then I thought about where nursing a grudge would lead me and I prayed for the courage to let it go.
One of the best pieces of advice I heard in these Joe and Charlie Big Book Study talks was about resentments (step 4). There they say that the original hurt at the hands of someone else - the first time, they did it - no problem - it's only natural and human to feel the hurt. But the second time I replay the situation in my mind, to feel the pain again - I'm doing it to myself now. And every time I replay it I make what they did a little bit worse and what I did a little bit better. This is the way an alcoholic mind works, anyway. The way my mind works.
So I'm in the process of letting go of today's hurt.
Before I shut my eyes tonight I will have worked it through and let it go.
I'm not always so willing to do the next right thing.
But hanging onto my hurt will only harm my recovery.
And I can be stubborn in the weirdest of ways.
Remaining pissed off at someone, while knowing full well that the consequences will do more damage to me than them, is enough motivation today to make the smart choice.
I'm grateful to know that choice exists.
I often don't want to follow through on it.
But I'm still grateful to know it's possible.
Sounds like a gift to me.