19 July 2011

Reversing Polarities

I see it in my children, of course, but I find it as much or more in myself. There is this tendency in me to focus and dwell upon my own hurts and upon my neighbor's sins. Really, though, it ought to be the other way around. I need to reverse my polarities, as it were, and consider my own sins, that I might repent of them, curb them and confess them, and consider my neighbor's hurts with compassion, that I might care for him and relieve his hurts where I can.

Among my children, several of them are especially prone to pick at their ouchies, their bug bites, scratches, scrapes and scabs, until they've made things many times worse, much larger, infected and inflamed. The healing process is hindered and slowed, and the end result is often a scar that need not have been. I know well enough to warn my children against that sort of self-harm, and to avoid doing the same thing where my own external ouchies are concerned. Would that I were better at resisting the urge to agitate and pester the internal wounds of heart and mind.

I'm too often as bad or worse than any of my children when it comes to my emotional ouchies, that is, the insults, offense and slights, whether real or imagined, which I suffer in the bump and grind of life in a fallen world. I'll poke and prod and pick at them, analyzing and investigating, exploring all the ins and outs of my hurt, until I've got them festering and oozing, angry and raw. Instead of leaving them alone to heal and dissipate, I end up making them bigger and bigger, and worse and worse, until the "bug bites, scratches and scrapes" become major wounds, and temporary scabs turn into permanent scars.

What goes hand-in-hand with such a focus on my hurts, is a focus on the sins of those who hurt me (whether in fact or in my exaggerated perception). And just as I manage to make my hurts that much bigger by my dwelling on them, so do I magnify my neighbor's sins in the process, at least in my imagination. Except that it isn't actually my neighbor's sins which are getting worse, but only the hardness of my own heart against my neighbor. That is a self-inflicted wound in its own right, which causes harm both within and without. Such things should not be so.

My hurts can actually help me learn to love my neighbor, because they enable empathy and teach me understanding and compassion. That often happens instinctively in the case of my children, as they experience many of the hurts and hard lessons of life that I've already lived through and learned from in my own growing up. My heart is moved in love for them, to care for them and comfort them, because I actually do know how it feels. How, then, should I not console them?

That is how my hurts can help and serve my other neighbors, too, and yet another way the Cross bears good fruits, as the Tree of Life that it is.

But my focus should not be on my own hurts, nor on my neighbor's sins. Those things I should leave to Christ, the Good Physician of body and soul, who heals and forgives. But in myself, by self-examination in the clear light of His Word, "considering my place in life according to the Ten Commandments," I identify and address those sins in me that war against both faith and love. I do not pick and poke at them with morbid curiosity, but curb them through self-discipline and give them over to Christ through confession, that I might avail myself of His Holy Absolution.

As I thus address my own sins by the Word of Christ, by the Law and the Gospel, and so live in the freedom of His forgiveness, I can look in love upon my neighbor's hurts. Not that I would gloat over my neighbor or revel in his ouchies, but that I might know where and how to care for him, to serve him in the peace of Christ. That my heart would not be hardened against my neighbor, but softened with compassion, and moved in tenderness to comfort and console. That I might also help my neighbor in his need, in the same way that Christ heals all my hurts.

It is a simple enough little flip of the switch, but it makes all the difference in my posture and perspective vis-à-vis my neighbor. Instead of dwelling upon my own hurts and my neighbor's sins, I am turned about to consider my owns sins and my neighbor's hurts in the light of Christ. For He has borne all our hurts and all our sins in His own body on the Cross, and in the great reversal of His Resurrection from the dead, we are recreated and made brand new. That is the real balm and healing that gives real life to both me and my neighbor. And in the end, the only scars are those in the hands and feet and side of Christ Jesus.

1 comment:

Cheryl said...

Thank you, Pastor. Exactly what I needed to hear. I think I'll need to read it again tomorrow. And the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that . . . .