Our Shared Humanity; Two Different Experiences
Growing up I was heavily influenced by my grandmother’s Missouri Synod Lutheran doctrine. However it was not the “rules” of the religion that my grandmother impressed on me as a child, but a more universal message of love and forgiveness.
Her message was simple as she believed, and taught me to believe, that we must forgive those who have hurt us and love our enemies.
In my case this was much harder to do as my dad would drop me off at church on Sunday and Wednesday nights and then later beat me for something I failed to do. And yet the message from my grandmother was loud and clear: You must love your father and forgive him for the things he is doing. A bitter pill to swallow at the time and I certainly did not understand a God that would let this happen to me. It has taken me a lifetime to learn that love and forgiveness is the essence of having peace and harmony in life.
As it turns out many others also have their own experiences in life that have left them wondering about God and religion.
People find it hard to make sense of circumstances that just don’t seem fair or they cannot understand. I understand this as I hear my own story and listen to the stories of others. The pain and hurt is seen in the eyes of people who tell me they believe in God but just can’t quite understand it all. They tell me they are looking for love and forgiveness in their lives but the process of forgiveness is a journey. Religion for many, feels like clothing that is way too small and they need to find peace with God as much as with themselves. I began to understand that people need many places where they can meet God again with more perspective and understanding. Over the last few weeks I have had several opportunities to experience God and spirituality in many different forms, other than my Lutheran Faith Community.
Several weeks ago I had opportunity to hear Nadia Boltz Weber speak about her new book, Accidental Saint.
If you have not heard of her, she describes herself as a Christian Theologian, ELCA Pastor and a New Times best seller author. Her appearance is not conventional; tattoos everywhere, a short cropped man’s hairstyle and ripped jeans, and neither is her message. As she continued to describe herself she said I swear, I have no filter and I am honest about who I am; my joys and my struggles with addictions as well as depression. In her church all are welcome; gay, lesbian, transgender, convicts and many others. She believes that when we can be real in our struggles and share them openly, we open a space for others to enter in with their own struggles. It is ok to wonder, question and be mad at God.
This past Sunday I had the invitation to be part of a Dao Ceremony presided over by those trained in this ancient Chinese Ceremony.
It was in Chinese but and even though they did a wonderful job of explaining it, I don’t know much about this sacred ritual other than its only purpose is to bestow blessings for love and harmony in your life. The group who attended represented several religions and spiritual practices. We were told that there was no need to believe anything or subscribe to a particular set of doctrine because the only purpose is to be open to receive a blessing. Not understanding any of the words I knew without a doubt that I had been blessed, and I could see others were too.
When I reflected on these experiences I wondered what personal loss and tragedy people brought with them to each event and what wisdom they needed to hear that day. I wondered if this was a place for those who were struggling to encounter God. But even more important, I wondered if hearing Nadia’s honesty about her life or receiving the Dao Blessing might result in less judgement, and more love and forgiveness for ourselves and each other.
Experiencing both things opened my perspective and made me wonder if perhaps we have released ourselves from the conventional norms of how things have to be. Perhaps we can acknowledge that we have widened our perspective of who we are and what we have in common so we can entertain that people have different paths to find love and forgiveness. I have learned that it is our common experiences that bring us deeper into relationship with ourselves and God. What I know for sure that does not cross any religious or spiritual boundary is that my grandmother was right; we must look past our differences to learn love our enemies and forgive those who have hurt us. ~ Blessings on your path.