prodigalmomma











{October 30, 2011}   Moving on (1st look at apologies)

The beautifully illustrated and written book “Zen Shorts” by Jon J Muth features a story about carrying a burden…

Two traveling monks reached a town where there was a young woman waiting to step out of her sedan chair. The rains had made deep puddles and she couldn’t step across without spoiling her silken robes. She stood there, looking very cross and impatient. She was scolding her attendants. They had nowhere to place the packages they held for her, so they couldn’t help her across the puddle.

The younger monk noticed the woman, said nothing, and walked by. The older monk quickly picked her up and put her on his back, transported her across the water, and put her down on the other side. She didn’t thank the older monk, she just shoved him out of the way and departed.

As they continued on their way, the young monk was brooding and preoccupied. After several hours, unable to hold his silence, he spoke out. “That woman back there was very selfish and rude, but you picked her up on your back and carried her! Then she didn’t even thank you!”

“I set the woman down hours ago,” the older monk replied. “Why are you still carrying her?”

Although zen readings are (I believe) linked to Buddhist beliefs, nevertheless I feel that other spiritual writing can be of interest in any spiritually aware life – irregardless of the personal beliefs you hold.

I think we can find biblical parallels with this story of setting down a load permanently; first I think of the story of the adulterous woman (John 8v1-11).  Things I notice about this bit

  • Lots of people were ready to accuse & condemn this woman

Jesus had been at the Mount of Olives but he returned to teach in the Temple and “Swarms of people came to him”.  Can you imagine this bustling busy 1st century temple, how busy it would have been?  Jewish law maintained that regular sacrifices had to be made in the temple, sometimes on a daily basis so there was no way this would have been a quite contemplative place.  So, in full view of everyone the religious leaders pull in this accused woman, announcing her misdeeds.

  • Jesus was wholly righteous, he could have condemned this woman…

…but he didn’t!  He asked if someone, anyone, could come forward and say “I’ve not messed up at all”, he invited the person who could say that to condemn this woman.  The only one who could, in good faith, accuse and condemned the adulterous woman (whom the religious leaders claim was caught red-handed) was Jesus.

  • The only one who can accuse and condemn us is Jesus…

…but he doesn’t!  Now I’ve spent a decent percentage of my young adult life effectively feeling fairly guilty for some of the poor choices I’ve made, and the paths I’ve walked down so this one is a bitter pill for me to swallow.  I want to argue back at it, ‘but Lord, Father, you can’t mean me!  But what about…’  I can see him saying ‘yeah, I know about that… and that…but it is finished’  There’s something me that sometimes still wants to argue … but as I try to get deeper wrestling with God’s word I’m trying to more and more let the truth of tetelestai sink in.

  • We are forgiven, but we need to stop doing what we did before.

It’s been said before, but repentance, saying sorry to God means a complete turning around.  Now, moment of personal honesty here, I’m an ex-smoker… ex for just under a month and I’ve tried quitting before so I’m not hanging up any banners about it just yet.  But, it was as if smoking was the thing from my ‘old life’ I was keeping back for me.  As if I was saying ‘okay God, I’ll go more regularly to Church because I like the worship and it’s good for my daughter, I’ll stop the children in my class saying omg [this is still a work in progress] and I’ll live my life for you… but I’ll do it with a cigarette in my hand.’

That’s not really how repentance, and being a ‘prodigal’ works now is it?

Saying sorry means the actions as well as the words; I try to impress this on children whom I teach.  Saying sorry for talking over the teacher means very little if they continue to do so.  Likewise, apologising to another child for not letting them join in the game whilst continuing to ignore them in the playground does not work.  I try to do this with my own daughter, who knows the word ‘sorry’ and usually knows when it’s appropriate to say it (and can be quicker to apologise than her own mummy!) but this doesn’t always mean the behaviour she apologises for stops (she’s only 4 so she’s learning all this).

As I try to educate children, my own and those I am responsible for I need to remember in my own life that apology without actions is just paying lip service to social conventions… and that’s the kind of ‘ritual’ I think really sticks in the divine throat… he looks at the heart and wants meaning.

1 Samuel 16:7
But God told Samuel, “Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart.”

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