Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Prayer Attributed to St. Francis

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
– A Prayer attributed to St. Francis

Grant that we may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

I feel increasingly isolated from people I used to feel close to.  I don’t know what to say to anyone, so I’ve barely been saying anything at all.  I spend a lot of time reading, a lot of time "listening" on various websites, but not a lot of time on Facebook and not a lot of time engaging in conversations.  I have emails and messages that have been sitting unanswered for weeks.  It isn't that I don't want to connect with people; it really is that I have no idea what words to use. 

I'm afraid if I start talking, I'll say what I really want to say.  I want to say that I feel I was sold distortions of Scripture, but that I have a different understanding now and for the first time in a long time I don’t feel I have to apologize for being a Christian.  I want to say that our preoccupation in this country with guns and violence and personal liberty in the name of God grieves my heart.  I want to say that I do not see love in exclusion, I do not see truth in nationalism, and I do not hear the Gospel in every-man-for-himself.  I want to say that I am falling in love with psalms and collects and the Church and – maybe for the first time – with my faith. 

But when I've floated variations of these words to the people I used to talk to, I’m often met with cautioning admonitions or incredulous looks or side-glances or criticism for sounding like I agree with the “wrong” people.

I keep asking myself if it’s me.  I wrack my brain, going over conversations word-for-word in my head, asking if anything that came out of my mouth sounded like I was judging.  Did I speak words that sounded like disapproval?  Did I sound like I was insisting on agreement with my point-of-view?  Did I seem insincere when I said, “I understand why people think differently, but this is how I understand it”?  No matter how lightly I tread on the eggshells, they end up broken and slicing tender flesh.

I want to say out loud the things my heart keeps repeating.  
I want to speak Mercy.

Mercy, not sacrifice.   

Lord, have Mercy.  

Lord, in your Mercy, hear our prayer.  

I want to say that sometimes in the way-too-early morning, when I’m awake because my mind started racing at 3AM and rendered going back to sleep hopeless, I get up and walk outside and it’s dark and calm and I hear “be still” echoing in my thoughts.  I want to say that in those moments I realize I am finally starting to believe that this faith, this hope, may actually be a beautiful way to spend my life. 

I don’t want to argue.  If other people experience God in a different way than I am or if they have a different understanding than I have, I accept that.  I am not trying to convince anyone of anything or talk them out of what they think.  We can disagree.  All I want is to look at someone in the face and tell them how wrecked I feel and see understanding instead of disapproval. 

And on one level, I know it isn’t wrong to want to talk to someone who understands.  I know it is okay for me to wish for that connection.  Yet, this isn’t really about me and I don’t know how to balance it.  I’m failing miserably.  I can’t avoid people I love because it hurts to get those looks and feel their judgment.  And if another person isn’t offering understanding or consolation or love to me, I should still be seeking to understand and to console and to love.  But how do I remember to listen to understand instead of talking to be understood? How do I learn to soothe and comfort when tensions are high?  How do I communicate love in the face of disapproval? 

I think it may have something to do with a table. 

And breaking bread. 

Perhaps I should start there.

Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love. 

Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.