Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lenten Project: Day Thirty-eight (Maundy Thursday)

Lent is almost over. Today is Maundy Thursday. We've moved from self-reflection to a reflection on the ultimate selfless gift: Jesus' gift of dying on the cross for us.  We celebrate the institution of the Last Supper of our Lord, that time when He gathered together his disciples and taught them what is love and forgiveness.

This day is a holy day that's brimming with restoration and hope, looking to the future Easter, while remembering the beginning of the Passion.  For me, I keep in my heart the hope of reconciliation with my sister Elizabeth, though reality is discouraging.  Since my divorce, my sister, still a Fundamentalist, has been shunning me, denying repeated attempts to seek forgiveness or reconciliation, saying that I have the "spirit that worketh death" on me.  (I don't know what that is or how a Christian could be marked in such a way, and none of the pastors I've asked have understood what she means by that, either.)

I've emailed repeatedly, trying to keep the door to the relationship open, but all my offers and suggestions to restore harmony have been rejected. I honestly don't know what else to do.  She claims I'm unrepentant and unchanged since I divorced.  I suspect she believes, agreeing with my parents, that I'm a walking, talking adulteress.  That, unless I "prove" my penitential spirit by following a specific list made by her, I've not actually repented.  She and her husband reject the testimony of pastors (from several different churches and denominations--Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Baptist), friends, family, those who have counseled me, those who have observed my life up close over the years and see a pronounced difference in me.  She demands that I let her "hold all the cards" and dictates that I must personally apologise to everyone who knew of my first marriage and divorce, since I broke my marriage vows to them and dishonoured God. Why my not having done these exact things must result in her refusal to have anything to do with me, I'm still not sure.  Most of what she has said makes little sense when viewed through the lens of Scripture and the light of the Gospel.

Hannah and Elizabeth sing together, Singapore, 2000

My friends, I want you to know that Jesus says his burden is easy and yoke is light, and his forgiveness is freely given, not earned through apologising to everyone you know. Jesus doesn't seek to break those who come to him, but to heal their brokenness. When you start living a life of redemption, the evidence is clear to anyone who will look--repentance has occurred, is occurring, and will continue to characterise you. This is what Easter, Christ's Passion, is all about.

I will admit, I've been tempted to fall back into my old habits of just pretending, of saying what my sister wants to hear so I can create a false peace, have a shallow reconciliation. But one thing I have learned, something I think has been shown through my posts this Lenten season, is that faking it never works.  Pretending all is well, embracing passive-agressivism, or even willfully choosing blindness and stunted spirituality, results in death, not life.

So I choose Christ.  I choose living a life of repentance.  I am marked as a child of God, and I want to be characterised by reconciliation.  But I can't force people to reconcile when they refuse.  I can't force people to act like Christ when they believe His virtues (peace, unconditional love, free forgiveness to those who don't earn or deserve it) are anathema.

I don't give up hope for my sister.  But I give the struggle up to God.  Because trying to convince a spiritually blind person that God is good and forgives is futile until that person willingly hears the Holy Spirit's voice.

This was a hard post to write. I wrote, deleted, rewrote, deleted again, scrapped the whole thing, prayed, pondered, wondered, and rewrote it all again from the very beginning.  It was not easy.  But it's right.  Because reconciliation is my theme. Hope and life are together threads entwined to run through every story I've told in this Lenten Project.

Hannah, Mary, and Elizabeth, mid-90s, Grenada

I hope that someday this episode of my life will be a testament to the reconciliation found in Christ, that Lizzy and I can be friends, or at least speaking sisters again.  Until then, it's a story of how Christians can be stubborn, proud, and often very unlike the Christ they serve, but how forgiveness is always available, always free, not earned. My comfort comes from the Lord. I'm reminded every Sunday during the Eucharist that we are one Body, Fundamentalist Baptists, Lutherans, and Anglicans, and everybody else, united in Christ, whether my sister Lizzy can see it through her blindness or not.  The passion of Christ was not futile or worthless.