See if you can relate to this.
When I was growing up, a “tool” was a thing you used to work in your garden; or to work on your car.
But no more.
Today, a “tool” is more often the ex who worked in your garden; or the ex who worked on your car.
And when I was growing up, a “hookup” was something that happened by visiting the local telephone office. Why, everyone knew that the first thing you did was to go to the AT&T office and politely ask the lady if she would arrange for a hookup at your house that afternoon.
And what’s more, there was always a line of others right behind you, ready to make the same request.
Sometimes she could. Sometimes she couldn’t. Most people were willing to wait a day or two for the hookup.
And when I was growing up, “gay” was something that happened to pretty much everybody from time to time. Why, it wasn’t unusual at all for one to find himself unexpectedly gay at the approach of a three-day weekend, or the Christmas holidays. Or the Super Bowl – especially the Super Bowl.
Why, back in the day, a person might find himself spontaneously gay for no reason whatsoever.
“Why so gay today?”
“No reason. Just crazy gay today.”
Why, a lot of people even went to church to find that they left gayer than they arrived.
And when I was growing up, “bad” meant undesirable and “sick” meant ill and a “thong” was a fun, little shoe you wore to the beach. But no more.
And so it is with words. They are elusive, slippery, fluid things and religion is not immune to their ways.
Today’s word - forgiveness - joins ranks with love and prayer and even God as elusive, slippery, fluid words which have morphed over years and across continents and through hands, ripe for restoration to their noblest selves in the hearts and minds of humanity; ripe, if you will, for the stripping of those veneers applied by time, geography and Hollywood.
After all, Hollywood would have us believe that love is something of a reactive human emotion, that prayer is something of a cosmic shopping list, and that God is something of a Santa/sadist hybrid who could benefit from the use of mood stabilizers.
And that same race wisdom would have us believe that to forgive is to condone hurtful behaviors. That same race wisdom would have us believe that to forgive is to pardon a lower soul from a self-appointed throne of masochistic righteousness. That same race wisdom would have us believe that to forgive is to restore a relationship to its previous form.
In other words, that same race wisdom would have us believe that to forgive is to adopt, memorize and regurgitate a script that goes something like this, “It’s okay. Can we make up now?”
Certainly, this idea of forgiveness was important to the writers of Christian scripture.
It’s in Luke that the tale is recounted of a paralyzed man, lowered through the roof of the crowded home in which Jesus was teaching.
And famously, the Rabbi responded by saying, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
Well, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law are reported to have thought, “Who can forgive but God alone?”
To which Jesus responded, “I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins.”
And Jesus concluded by saying, “Get up, take your mat and go home.”
At which point the man did.
And the people said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”
So, when the man came to Jesus for healing, Jesus responded by saying, “Your sins are forgiven.”
In effect, when the man came to Jesus for healing, Jesus responded by affirming a theme which colored the entirety of his teaching/healing ministry. I might go so far as to say that Jesus responded by affirming a theme which defined the entirety of his teaching/healing ministry and that theme goes something like this:
So, you want to be healed?
You must die to an old way of being, in order to be born into a new way of being.
And when we reflect upon our story, where does this dying and rebirth happen?
This cycle happens within each of us.
And when we reflect upon our story, who has the authority to say that we are finished with an old way of being?
It’s not God who holds us to our old ways of being. We hold us to our old ways of being. And it’s not that fickle Santa/sadist God who decides when we’ll be free from our old ways of being. We decide when we’ll be free from our old ways of being.
God is never the limitation we experience.
God is always the freedom that beckons us from those experiences of limitation.
A Course in Miracles says the same thing this way, all sin is undone the moment we bring our judgmental thoughts into the healing light of love.
So, try this on in consciousness:
To forgive is to grow beyond the energies from which past circumstances arose.
I like to think that if Jesus were teaching today, he might say something akin to, “So, you want to be healed? You must grow beyond the energies from which past circumstances arose, in order to be born into greater health.”
“So, you want to be prosperous? You must grow beyond the energies from which past circumstances arose, in order to be born into greater prosperity.”
“So, you want to be satisfied? You must grow beyond the energies from which past circumstances arose, in order to be born into greater satisfaction.
“And, since your sins are forgiven – since there is nothing outside of you standing against you – get up, pick up that Lazy Boy recliner and get on with it.”
Let us practice together. And let me know how it goes.
For I look forward to adding my voice to the raucous clamor of celebration with, “Yes, I have seen remarkable things today.”