Saturday, July 26, 2008

Judgement


Hello, this is Erika, about to try and post in place of Doorman-Priest. What a challenge, so don't expect the usual high standards!



Judgement



He had always tried his best. Oh, he hadn’t been a saint, who is! But he had tried. He had never killed anyone, never stolen from anyone. He had been divorced. There had been a lot of pain. Much said and done, much that he regretted…Well, in the heat of the moment….and in cold blood, yes, that too. But that wasn’t just him… she too…! There were many who had done worse things. A normal human life. A mix of triumph and disaster, of success and failure, of joy and sorrow.

God’s judgement. He’d thought of it, of course, feared it at times. In those moments when he had felt a complete and utter failure, he dreaded God’s judgement. He knew that God would see through his feeble attempts at self-justification, that he would condemn him. In those moments, he tried to muster every ounce of self-righteousness he had. Tried to remember why he had done what he had done, said what he had said. Would God understand the pressures he had been under? Surely! If only he were given a fair hearing, he could explain. Maybe…. Better not think about it. Because in the depth of his heart he knew…..

There were moments of success, of unbridled joy, of feeling at one with the world. In those moments, he welcomed God’s judgement. The pat on the back. You are my beloved son, in you I am well pleased. Hadn’t God said it before? Aren’t we all God’s children? I really think I may be good enough for God, that he will be pleased with me and that I will deserve his praise. And he remembered all those moments where he had loved, where he had acted selflessly, had helped others even when it had cost him dear. He remembered the times he had given a large sum to charity – secretly, of course, as not to show off. The time when he forgave his wife for that terrible thing she had done to him. Yes, he had made mistakes, but he had a good heart. Deep down inside there was love and strength, forgiveness and charity – yes, he was ready to meet his God.

And now, here he stands, having left the earth, suddenly coming face to face with God. This awesome presence. Overwhelming. Overpowering. Completely all consuming. Such glory! Such….such…..and suddenly he feels small. Shabby. Dirty. Confronted with this Glory, he can suddenly see the truth. He can see himself as that Glory must see him. Can see how he has fallen short. He sees clearly and without self deception, what he could have been. Sees his strengths and weaknesses all laid bare. His successes and failures – there, plain to see. The time when the red cloth of rage had wrapped itself around him and he had hit his small child. His anger, barely controllable… He had been right to be angry….The frightened, wide open eyes of his trusting child, the fear in them. That moment when he knew he could have stopped himself. Then, part of the trust gone forever. The guilt he felt afterwards.
The love he felt. The determination to make up for it. And he had, he had made an effort to become a much gentler father afterwards. Much much good had come out of his failure. Much good, that may have been left hidden, had it not been for that one failure.

Here, face to face with absolute Glory, he remembers his life.
He remembers his divorce. The hurt when he realised that he no longer loved his wife as much as she loved him. That awful time when they had outgrown the flowerpot of their marriage. No more common goals, no real communication. The pain of not being able to love as he should! The lie of living wordlessly side by side! They both tried, they both failed. A long successful marriage, a desperate mess of broken pieces at its end. But after they had waded through the depth of their misery, new shoots of life for both of them.

He remembers the time when his mother had been ill and needed to be cared for. The mix of heroic self sacrifice, of caring, of loving. But also the anger that engulfed him when he was confronted with her constant need. The bitter resentment that he could often barely conceal. That point where love and hate pushed him to the limits of his understanding.

He remembers the lies. The white ones, the black ones and the many grey ones. His heart grows heavy when he remembers with sudden clarity all those instances of anger, resentment, deliberate hurtfulness, revenge, loss of self control, lying, unkindness. The self deception, moments of self justification, even self righteousness. He remembers the preoccupation with himself, with his own life and concerns, and those of his immediate family. And he can see them clearly for what they were.

His face shines when he remembers, with equal clarity, moments of true joy, of shared love, of perfect happiness, of something done well, of pain endured, of hurt tolerated, of difficulties overcome. Moments where he had surprised himself by how giving and loving, how selfless he could be.

There had been much suffering in his life. Sometimes it had seemed to him that he had had more than his fair share of it. Why! He had often been tempted to ask. Why me! Why again! Not more!! Often had had borne it with strength, sometimes he had broken down. On the whole, he had shown much courage in the face of adversity.

Much of his life had been the mundane struggle with the small daily choices. So many crossroads, so many options. So few pointers. So little of it black or white, right or wrong. So much of it shades of grey, grades of pain, difficult choices, no clear pathway. The endless moral struggle of knowing that he would get it wrong, whatever he did. The timeless story of human nature, of everyday life.

So much of his growing had sprung from his utter failure, from pain, from misery. So much of his love and understanding had sprung from sorrow and disaster. From understanding the pain he had inflicted on others. From accidentally saying the wrong thing and living with the consequence. From clumsily avoiding other people’s hurt and feeling his own inadequacy. From those terrible moments in the middle of the night when he had woken up, suddenly remembering….

His small love had been bought at the price of realising how he had hurt others. His little understanding had been purchased at the cost of what he had done to others. All the small omissions, the many could have done betters….

Seeing himself as he really is, he becomes aware of what he had not known. How his moral righteousness had hurt those around him. How his certainties had suffocated those whose lives he did not approve of. How his carelessness had caused others to suffer.
He sees his limitations clearly, his own lack of love and understanding for those he had shared the earth with. His own deep fears that had stopped him from understanding fully, from giving freely.

This sudden knowledge of the depth of his weakness – this sudden understanding of the depth of his limitations… THIS is the judgement. The worst, most crippling, most punishing judgement possible. How can he live now, knowing what he knows?

Truly seeing, bewildered, afraid, he barely dares to face his God. What will he say, what will he ask?

And God asks: Do you know how much I love you?

He doesn’t hear. Wrapped up in himself, frightened, hurt, he slowly picks up the bowl that was his life. That small bowl full of bright shiny surfaces, of dark shapes, of sharp edges where pieces had broken off. Patches polished by joy, spots roughened by tears. The many colours. The black areas. The web of cracks covering the whole bowl in a pattern, interwoven, linking good and bad, laughter and tears, joy and sorrow, success and failure, triumph and disaster.

And again God asks: Do you know how much I love you?

Slowly, hesitatingly, with averted eyes, he lifts his small bowl up to his God. Here, this is all I have to offer. My small life. My broken bowl. All the mess of my humanity. Here is my life. It was precious to me. It is all I have to give you. I am sorry.

And God takes the bowl, gently, carefully, tenderly. As though it was the most precious gift he had ever received. He gently takes the broken bowl and makes it whole, makes up all the deficit with his wonderful healing love.

And God asks: Do you know how much I love you?