Seventy Times Seven

20160919_151416One year ago today my mom transitioned from this life to eternal life. Over the years I had watched as a few of my friends lost their mothers, some of whom warned me that I would miss my mom when she was gone from this earth. Especially in the last decade or so of her life, my response was, “Hardly!” To say that our relationship was strained was, at times, an understatement. But…

I miss my mom. Time has a way…

 At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?” Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.   -Matthew 18:21-22 [MSG]

I have typically thought of this verse as an admonition to forgive someone each time they hurt me. But there is another way of applying it that makes as much (and sometimes more) sense. Every time I remember a hurtful situation, I am faced with the choice to forgive again… and again… and again. Each time that memory reasserts itself, I have the opportunity to forgive. Easier now to understand that seventy times seven, isn’t it?

The truly interesting thing is how, if I am persistent in forgiving, the offense begins to fade away after awhile. I’ve spent a year letting go of offenses, both real and perceived. I’ve forgiven, and forgiven, and forgiven–sometimes the same offense, countless times. And over the course of the year, I’ve found that other memories have begun to rise up and take the place of the painful ones. Memories of laughter, of fun times Mom and I shared, of little phrases that were our own private sort of shorthand–like “milk and cookies,” which meant that something wasn’t working out quite right. (We never could get a glass of milk and a stack of cookies to finish at the same time! There was always more milk than cookies, so we’d have to go back and get more cookies…but then there would be more cookies than milk, so… well, you get the idea. Mom and I could go through a whole package of Oreos playing that game!)

My spiritual director suggested a few months ago that I plan on doing something to mark this first anniversary of my mom’s passing. Her grave is in another state and I knew I would probably not have the opportunity to go visit. I tried come up with something she would have enjoyed doing, thinking that I would go do it in her memory…but nothing came to mind. Last week my daughter and I went to a quilt show. We had a wonderful time together and I know it’s a memory we will both treasure. On the way home it occurred to me that, many years ago–before our relationship became so strained–Mom and I enjoyed doing things like that together and, for a moment, I sensed Mom’s smile.

Seventy times seven is nothing in light of that peace.

I love you, Mom. 20170513_204953.jpg

 

Minus the Filters

What happens when our filters are stripped away? It can happen to anyone at any time. It canfilter be the result of alcohol consumption, medications, anesthesia, dementia, Alzheimers, and probably several more factors that I haven’t thought of yet. But the point is…what happens when our filters are stripped away and our naked psyche is laid bare?

I have witnessed a gentle, trusting person slip into an early death, their body ravaged by cancer, their mind dulled by medication. I have witnessed a fearful, fiercely independent person slip into dementia, lashing out at anyone trying to help. I can’t help but wonder at the difference the habits of the mind might make when one’s filters are gone.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

These words penned by the Apostle Paul to the church at Philippi are an exhortation for me as well. I must train my mind and my heart to trust the Lord’s nearness, employ joy, gratitude and prayer as weapons against anxiety. To do so is to welcome a peace that transcends my cognitive experience, a peace that remains even when medication, disease or old age lay bare my soul.

Today I must think about the positive rather than the negative, look for the good in people and situations, fix my mind on the very One who is most lovely and excellent. Today is the day; I can’t afford to wait until tomorrow or the day after. I need a lifetime of this discipline in order to be the person I most want to be–the person Christ created me to be–minus the filters.

As we begin this new year, ask yourself who you most want to be. Is that who you would be, minus your filters?

Today is the day.