By Rev. Jim Innes
In the last few weeks, the Christian church has been celebrating the season of Epiphany.
In Churchland, this means celebrating God's Grace as given to us through her Son Jesus. And how that Son's ministry (best described as his personhood) attracted followers and spread out and beyond its Jewish roots.
For Christians today, this can be a time to reflect on the remarkable ways that God has extended Grace to us. Pastorally speaking, it is a time to count our blessings and give thanks for the ways we have matured in faith.
Maturing in faith is best described as becoming the truth of Spirit that lies within us, the reality that we are children of God, meant to live in peace and love. This maturing is a process often associated with insight, healing, and forgiveness (given and received).
Let me speak a bit about this healing process. And, I will reference it as the healing of our past wounds. Generally speaking, these wounds are internal sources of pain and confusion created by 'dark' and horrific external experiences. I use the word 'dark' to express all the crazy crap our communities and culture can cough up at our doorstep!
Some of the most optimistic, and usually, but not always, those with limited self-awareness, call these wounds our 'holy brokenness.' They argue that wounds develop character. Hmmm….in principle, and looking backward from a safe distance, I can cautiously agree. But, there is more to this woundedness than merely the path to wholeness. There are suffering and injustice!
In speaking of suffering and injustice, I will take a tiny, momentary sidestep from my focus on inner psychology/spirituality. I wish to point out that there are appalling social atrocities that affect each of us. In my experience, these are climate justice, the refugee crisis, racial prejudice, discrimination on sexual orientation, income gaps, violence, hunger, and homelessness (including those who can't afford a decent space).
These issues demand our attention. However, as I see it, to attend to them, we must first be in a place of sufficient Grace. And not just Grace that has blessed us with resilience, but Grace that lifts us from our own sluggish swim in the cesspool of self-absorption, or, as some might argue self-protection. It is a soggy, sloppy sink-pit that I, all too regularly, fall into myself. And that's because talking about atrocities is not the same activity as seeking to do something about them.
Cesspools are a complex mix of hurt, trauma, disappointment, and ignorance. This composite of 'stuff' (wounds) cannot be quickly explained nor quickly unraveled. They have an inventive approach to becoming integrated into our lifestyles. And once they become unwittingly (or perhaps not so unwittingly) fused into our daily choices, they become compounded.
Release from this bog of stinking mud is begun through self-evaluation and introspection. Traditional counseling may assist well at this point. However, the ongoing work is more of a prayerful journey. And, by prayerfulness, I mean inviting Spirit (or a loving power greater than our own) to remove the damming influence of well-integrated and destructive life choices.
Through reflection, prayer, and gradual change, this journey is about all we can do to right the injustices we know belabor our communal life. Over time, with patience and affirming support, our choices flow from increased compassion. And though we may not become full-on martyrs for a cause, we will, at least, become people who shape our world one relationship at a time.
Rev. Jim Innes is the rector of the Regional Ministry of South Huron.
(Featured photo: Joshua Fuller/Unsplash)