The snow fell over our Oxford garden and transformed it. I sometimes look at my garden, and think it’s getting rather scruffy, and resolve to get out with shears and secateurs come spring.
But then snow falls, and the garden, a little bit overgrown, much in need of a prune, is transformed. White, magical, still and quiet. Cobwebs, laced in frost, glisten.
Nothing is as it seemed yesterday.
Nothing is as it seems. That’s a great lessons my garden teaches me as it changes from season to season—bulbs burst from the barren ground come spring; there was rich life beneath the frozen year. The bare branches sing with blossom; where had that been hiding?
The earth suddenly turns rich green and bursts with flower and birdsong in summer. Then it morphs again, gold-vermilion, followed by winter, austere and stark.
‘You thought you knew me; think again. You thought you had me pegged; think again.” We can only understand a fraction of reality.
And we too shall be changed, just as our earth is. “Our bodies sown in dishonour, shall be raised in glory; sown in weakness, shall be raised in power. We will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and we will be changed.” (1 Cor. 15)
Change, metamorphosis, metanoia, or changing one’s mind. Repentance. For me, these are magical words, full of hope and possibility.
Day by day, we can change the seeds we put into the soil of our lives, resisting negativity, and judgement and meanness, sowing instead mercy, and kindness. And what we sow we reap. And gradually, the very substance of our hearts changes. Because of the mercy of the gardener.
Nothing is as it seems. I wrote a harsh email earlier this week to an old frenemy I kind of like whom I first met 18 years, and who has been making a nuisance of himself on my Facebook page, and sometimes blog, leaving several negative, hostile, almost slanderous comments daily. Replying or deleting; replying or deleting: How time-consuming it all became.
Was it just envy, hostility, insecurity, sadness over his own failures? Relative success reveals whom your true friends are, just as relative failure or poverty. I blocked him, unblocked him at his request, and then when he was back with his undermining, hostile comments, reblocked him.
I wrote a harsh email explaining why (after being patient for months and months), sent it, and then a minute later, as many writers do, saw how I could have said the same thing in a dignified, restrained way in just two or three sentences. And without judgement.
His put-downs and contentious comments sure looked like envy and hostility and malice, but they may not have been. Some people are just nuts, high-functioning nuts perhaps, but nuts, not evil. “Do not judge,” Jesus said, for nothing is as it seems. As adults we can decide whom we want in our lives, and whom we’d rather block, but without withering character judgements as to whether they are mad, bad or merely sad.
I feel too ashamed to re-read that email. How will my friend, or frenemy feel? I felt dreadful.
Oh, there is only one place for such as I to retreat. To the fountain of forgiveness that falls, falls like blood, magic blood that turns its recipients as snow.
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
And so I return again to the cleansing fountains, to the love of Jesus at Calvary when he, inexplicably, heart-rendingly, offered his beautiful life as a payment in full for every sin of mine.
And the mercy from the Great Heart, the life-blood of that Great Heart pours over me, and I feel the sweetness of that great love, and I feel his love and acceptance, and I snuggle into the recesses of the Most High, and there am I safe.
Such forgiveness, for a cranky woman who blew it. Incredible. I am made new, forgiven, washed white as snow.
* * *
And I forgive the man whose been trolling my Facebook page so insistently.
And become Facebook friends again? Oh no! He was consistently judging my theology, my reading of the Bible (he has a mercilessly inerrantist reading) and my politics. The continuous contemptuous putdowns were very annoying. And being exposed to people’s judgements is bad, dangerous and harmful. Judgments can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, and being judged in a heavy weight to bear!! As we are not to judge, we are also not to expose ourselves, our ears, hearts or spirits to other people’s judgements. For nothing is as it seems. They too only see in part.
Envy is dangerous, and the leading, hostile questions he was asking me on my FB page were almost slanderous–“Do you support abortion for any and every reason,” (in response to my posting, without comment, a Guardian article on the medically unnecessary death of Savita Halappanavar)
Anyone who experiences increasing business success or career success will face putdowns and envy and snideness from old friends, acquaintances or frenemies whose own life has been disappointing. It’s a sad fact of life.
How do we deal with this? Do not boast. Certainly. Disguise your relative success? Perhaps. Drop them? In some instances, where is not much fondness in my heart for them, or vice-versa, and we still meet up out of old habit, this might be the best solution.
I love being a Christian adult. I do not have to act reflexively. I can act with wisdom, after consultation with my Lord. My forgiver.
“When such as I cast out remorse
So great a sweetness flows into the breast
We must laugh and we must sing,
We are blest by everything,
Everything we look upon is blest.”
William Butler Yeats