|The Giant Red Star Mira|
Wow! Forgiveness can have as dramatic an effect on your spiritual life, as cutting all sugar and white flour, white rice, pasta etc can have on your health, mental health, energy levels, emotional well-being, and intellectual ability. (This cutting is a recent experiment for a season, and after the first 2-3 days, I feel great).
As I have written on this blog, I had a transformational spiritual experience in New Zealand last year. I stood transfixed by a waterfall rushing on, and saw a little pile of sticks, stones, leaves and creatures, that remained stuck behind a rock. If one does not forgive, one remained stuck behind a rock, not rushing on in the waterfall of God.
I had been treated unfairly a couple of years before this experience, and keenly felt the injustice. I brooded, probably got a bit bitter, and unhappy, and was stuck. Now I forgave totally and rushed on. And words came. I had been in the throes of a long winter of writers’ block, and now began to write easily, fluently and in a new style.
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God must have really, really wanted me to learn forgiveness because I have had a lot to forgive this year!! I blogged about decisions made in the Christian community I belong to, actions and decisions which had left half the community seething and simmering. I blogged about these things in a series of outspoken posts called “The Screwtape Lectures” which left the other half of the congregation seething and simmering. Oh dear!
Tentacles of bitterness which defile many. People said and did things to me as a result of these outspoken, though honest, blog posts (now deleted, dear reader!). Oh dear, more things to forgive.
When I left for Spain on the 16th December, I had a LOT to process. Anger, hurt, desire for justice, annoyance at seeing injustice triumph, desire to see God vindicate me against my adversaries, and sheer mixed-upedness about whether God wanted me to continue the Screwtape Letters (and I’ve had an answer from him, a complex carbohydrate answer), some repentance, and sadness over the people I unwittingly hurt.
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There is nothing like travel when you are overwrought, when there are dozens of ideas racing through your head, when your emotions are unsettled.
In Spain, I tasted again the goodness of God. Sheer, unmerited mysterious goodness. I felt peace settle over my spirit again. Deep peace. The peace that, Paul says, transcends understanding because why should I be experiencing the peace of God’s love and God’s shalom, when I was not without sin in what I did, and when the road ahead was unclear? But there it settled in my soul, sweet honey. Shalom, well-being.
I loved God, and he loved me. He healed me. Set me back on my feet. Renewed me. Made me new.
I slept long and well and dreamed. In my dream, I felt again this honey of peace and joy slowly seep through my soul. Woke with incredible peace and joy. I said to myself, “I forgive everyone.” And then, my left-brain said to me, “Wait a minute, Anita. You forgive everyone? Don’t you need to go through the everyone and the aught and any and forgive them one by one.”
God healed me, and put me together in those 9 days in Granada, when I slept a lot, and prayed a lot, and rested a lot, and listened to him a lot. He restored my soul. Restored energy, optimism, and joy. A sense of anticipation. The joy of life!
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I am reading the early chapters of Matthew about the Magi following the star.
Star of wonder, star of light, star of royal beauty bright, where are you leading? It is definitely, but infinitesimally moving.
Oddly enough, for someone who has always believed that Christians need as much of koinonia, Christian fellowship, as they can get, I feel the star moving away. I have heard entirely too much anger-producing gossip by Christians about other Christians, and my soul needs to hear less. I have got too enmeshed in a smoke-and-mirrors, fear-filled, gossipy, internecine situation–where people are far more concerned about how other people perceive, value and rate them, rather than about what God thinks of them– and I need a short break from it, not from attending church, but from being quite so enmeshed in it. I need to move outwards. Where? Towards the edges of the congregation for now. And then? I am following the star.
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Small ponds are unhealthy for fish and Christians. My Christian life in my church now feels like an unhealthy small pond.
I need a bigger pond.
Luckily, my life in Oxford has another centre of gravity. The very first month I arrived here, January 2006, I joined three groups to which I still belong. I joined a church, St. Aldate’s. I joined a home group, Headington. And I joined a writer’s society, an invitation only group, which now has about 160 members. We have made many friends there, genial, clever, well-read, often erudite people. So on my calendar
, for the next couple of months, I have dinners and lunches with fellow-writers, individuals and couples. It will be good to branch out into the wider world, to truly be quiet, gentle loving salt and light in another sphere.
I feel God saying I need to withdraw slightly from my church for the health of my soul. But I am steadily making Christian friends through my blogging, and that’s good too. Fresh air, a bigger pond!
Tomorrow to fresh woods, and pastures new.