Monthly Archives: July 2010

Letters to the Great Peacemakers: Mother Teresa

Dear Mother Teresa,

Sometimes I pray to you, even though I am not Catholic.

As best I remember, these prayers began last year, when I began to pray more fervently about how God might want to use my life in the service of nonviolence. I would ask you to implore Jesus on my behalf for wisdom and an ability to recognize his plans for me. I knew that he would hear your prayers for me. I knew that he would listen and heed them.

I knew, too, that you would be sympathetic to my prayer — you, who had been granted a vision in 1946 as you made your retreat to Darjeeling and encountered in the train station the poorest of the poor. On that night, a firm conviction planted itself in your heart that you were to work among India’s poor, showing them the love of Christ and loving the face of Christ in them as you cared for them in their suffering. It was a conviction that never left you, though the road to realizing your vocation was long and arduous. You always knew, from that moment forward, what God was asking of you.

I was praying and waiting for a similar conviction in my own life last year, so I would ask you to pray for me, knowing how dear you are to Christ. You became a type of spiritual mother to me through those petitions, and I cannot thank you enough for your love for me and your prayers on my behalf.

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Right now, Mother, I need your prayers again.

My interior journey for the past nine months has been full of immense tumult. Since last September, when I emerged from a summer of solitude devoted to prayer and the study of nonviolence, I have struggled to find equilibrium.

Until recently, I blamed this difficulty on the many commitments in my outer world that I seemed not to know how to juggle well. As you know, I am a contemplative creature by nature, given to a slow pace of life with plenty of time for reflection and prayer. When my pace of life increased tenfold last September, I felt like I began flailing about in unrelenting waves, choking on salt water and so near to drowning again and again.

I know it is true that I find it difficult to give my attention to too many things at once. But lately I’ve begun to believe that something more intentional is at work within this struggle. There seems to be a need to relearn old truths: to rediscover grace and realize anew my belovedness to God.

I believe this to be true because of the very old yet familiar circuit upon which my thoughts keep running. They are thoughts full of fear, of pressure, of anxiety. They tell me I must perform without stain or blemish. They compel me to seek approval and affirmation for every insignificant moment. They feed on insecurity, and they make me feel 19 again — rather than the mature and rooted woman I had slowly and gladly become these last twelve years.

I don’t like this reality, Mother, and I have fought with God for bringing me back to this very old place, a place I thought no longer held me, a place I know God and I had worked long and hard to overcome. But he seems to be showing me there is more to learn and overcome here, and it hurts. I feel as though my lover has wounded me. I feel like God has betrayed me.

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When I read the letters you wrote to your spiritual fathers about the excruciating darkness in your soul that lasted decades of your life, I see just how far I have to go.

Although you felt abandoned by God, your response was unrelenting faithfulness and a determination toward cheerful adoration. I know your heart grew very heavy and the loneliness neared despair, yet you renewed your resolve of love and faithfulness to God again and again. You knew your darkness was his delight for reasons mysterious and beyond your comprehension. You shared in his sufferings in that place, and you felt it was your humble privilege to do so.

I am not responding that way here. As God is wounding me for my apparent good, I find myself shaking my fist, banging against his chest, crying out at his abandonment, and growing listless and despairing, often renewing an old and unswerving dependence on myself.

Here is where I need your prayers, dear Mother.

Please pray for me, that the face of Jesus would be my delight. Please pray that my love for him would grow. Pray that I would smile at him, and at others for his sake. Please pray for an increase of faith, and of strength to continue through this dark and undesired place. Please pray that I would know him to be near, even though he seems distant and cold and deaf to my pleas. Please ask for his forgiveness of my anger and unbelief, and especially my unfaithful love as I’ve been so quick to turn my back on him.

Mother, as you expressed in the midst of your own darkness that it would be your work in heaven to come light the lamps of those on earth who also walked in darkness, I ask that you would indeed “come, be my light.” Bring that light near, that I would see the face of Christ again and come to love him well.

Yet even if I do not see his face — if it is his will for me to believe in his love for me in this dark and difficult place — it is my prayer that I would learn to love him with a love that doesn’t require sight, as you so fervently did.

With loving humility in Christ,

Christianne

Moment of Love Monday: July 2010

Hi there, friends.

I’ve got an adjustment to Moment of Love Mondays that I’d like to share with you, and I hope you will find it a helpful improvement.

Early in the life of this blog, I asked what topics you, the tribe, would like to see featured here, and a couple of you said you’d like to see examples of love lived out. It was a confirmation to me that Moment of Love Mondays would be a helpful feature for us to learn from concrete examples what this nonviolent path can look like.

In the beginning, I imagined these monthly observances would simply be an open forum for us to share stories from our own lives with one another — ways that we had personally chosen love in difficult moments each month — and that’s how I ran the feature from the start.

But lately I’ve begun to think it could encompass more. Specifically, I’ve begun to think it would be helpful to use these monthly Mondays to highlight stories of others who are putting love into action in inspiring ways or difficult places so that we can, collectively, learn from what they have done.

What if Moment of Love Monday became a place to feature stories and learn from them together? What if those stories became mini-object lessons for us as we learn our way along this path? I know that I, for one, would love to discover stories like this and discuss them with you.

What say you? Are you up for this adjustment to the plan?

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In the spirit of this new approach to Moment of Love Monday, then, I’ve got a remarkable story to share with you.

It’s the story of a gentleman named Nathan who enacted a version of “protesting for love” when he and his friends at the Marin Foundation showed up at the Chicago gay pride parade two weekends ago wearing shirts that said “I’m sorry.” They held signs that said things like “I’m sorry for the way churches have treated you” and “I’m sorry that Christians judge you.”

Collectively, they demonstrated confession and contrition for the hatred and judgment and rejection the church has traditionally offered the gay community, and they sought to offer love instead. It was, for them, a beginning attempt at reconciliation, especially because the Marin Foundation exists to build bridges between the Christian community and the gay community.

They never expected the response they received.

Not only were there hugs and kisses and “thank yous” and “I forgive yous” offered continuously to them by the paraders marching by throughout the day, but one young man named Tristan, dressed in nothing but his skivvies, jumped from a float and threw his arms around Nathan once he realized what the group was doing. The media immediately descended on this unlikely photo op, propelling the group’s demonstration into the public eye.

You can read the full story — along with the 400+ comments it inspired — here.

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I find several things remarkable about this story.

The first is the almost unanimous response of tears. When I first read the story, I tweeted that it brought tears to my eyes. Later, when I went back to read the extensive comment thread, I learned I was not alone. It seemed as though every other comment said about the same thing. Here’s a sampling from just the first handful or so comments:

Your post brought me to tears.

I wept when I read your posting.

I read your post to a few of my friends last night. We were all shedding a few tears.

I really wasn’t expecting to cry while reading this.

I am crying as I type this.

I’m in tears.

Much of the comment thread goes like this.

There’s just something to be said for a simple act of love bringing people around the world to tears almost unanimously, isn’t there? Perhaps one thing it says is just how needed love is in that particular context: the relationship between the Christian community and the gay community.

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Which touches on the next thing I find quite remarkable about this story: how many people came out of the woodwork to share their stories of having turned their backs on religion because of the way Christians had treated them or their friends for being gay — but then saying that this act of love by Nathan and his friends had given them new hope that not all Christians represent hate.

See a few examples here (emphases mine):

I lost my faith a decade ago, due in part to the homophobia I was surrounded by in church, but it was enormously healing to read this, and it reminded me of all the things I used to like about Jesus :)

It has been a long time since I have attended church, yet this article has touched my heart in a way that the multitudes of angry protesters never could.

I am not a Christian, but your story has deep, meaningful impact to me.

For the majority of the past two decades I have attended gay pride parades as a proud participant, marching in many. I can vividly recall one of the early ones, a protester carried a huge sign that read “Thank GOD for AIDS.” That sign, as horrific as it was, impacted the way I viewed Christians, and even changed the way I physically reacted when I heard the word “God” for years to come.

I feigned tolerance toward the religious, not wanting to do the same to you as was done to me, but all the while secretly hating, being guilty of grouping the religious all into the camp that sponsored that sign, so many years ago. I can say with happiness and relief that your actions and story have brought about the first relief from that hate.

Thank you.

I find that last comment particularly impactful, hearing that a person was brought to have a physical reaction to the word “God” because of the message sent to them on a protest sign years ago. Wow. It makes my heart hurt to know humans — especially in the name of God — can injure one another to such a degree.

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Finally, I was perhaps most especially moved by a few commenters who reciprocated the apology.

Take a look at one example:

I’m not going to lie. Only a few months ago, I had a conversation where I expressed the idea that all of Christianity was a loss. That there just weren’t any good Christians and that anyone who said they were a Christian should instantly be suspect as hate driven.

After reading about you and your mission, I have to tell you, “I’m sorry.”

I was wrong for dismissing all of you without knowing there are people who actually understand the message I read in your gospels. While I don’t hold your beliefs. I have always admired the man described in the New Testament. Jesus was clearly and completely about love. I do believe in love.

I regret that I made a judgement without knowing all the facts. And a judgement made in hate. It seems there is reaching out to be done from both sides of the barricade. Thank you for making the first move.

If what you believe is true, then I know that the Jesus I read about must be very impressed by you and your group. I am.

Again, wow. I’m amazed that people were not only moved to tears — and some to places of healing — by the demonstration of Nathan and his friends at the pride parade, but that some of those who had come to hate Christians would be moved to apologize for that hatred, too, because of the love demonstrated by Nathan’s group that day.

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The journey toward nonviolence, for me, began when I encountered the idea that love is the only force in the universe powerful enough to overcome and transform violence. This was a notion that would not let me go, and I set out on this journey toward nonviolence to discover if it was true.

This story about Nathan and his friends and what happened in the aftermath shows me that there really is something to this idea. People are not only moved by love, but they are moved toward one another. This makes me keen to keep following the path and learning what more love can do.

So, what about you?

What do you make of this story?

Does it teach you anything about love?

Does it teach you anything about hate?

Does it have a personal impact on you in some way?

Repentance Thursday: July 2010

[A short song for reflection on this Repentance Thursday, sung by me.]

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Every first Thursday of the month, we take some time to reflect on our thoughts, words, and actions over the previous month in order to confess our need for repentance and forgiveness. If you’re new to Repentance Thursday, I encourage you to read the inaugural post expressing the intent and reason for this ritual here.

To participate, feel free to reflect on these questions as you consider the past month in retrospect:

  • Into what dark mires did my heart traverse?
  • In what ways did I bring harm to my fellow man, either in thought, word, or deed?
  • How did I sin against God?

After reflecting on these questions, you are welcome to leave a comment of confession below.

Blessings to you on this holy day. Thank you for joining us.