Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

--A prayer attributed to St. Francis, p. 833, Book of Common Prayer

I always think of my own very short version of what the gist of the St. Francis prayer means to me:

"Lord, bless (person who messes with my head); change me.
Lord, grant peace and healing to (situation I can't stand); change me.
But whatever happens, change me."

Sometimes I joke that I have a tendency to forgive someone before I really understood what I was forgiving them for in the first place, and maybe that's not so bad--because every time I want to re-visit that situation, to replay my anger and get angry all over again, I sort of stop and glance up and go, "Oh, yeah...I forgave them already. Damn."

But I find in doing that, I am much more likely to live up to what I told God, than if I let it sit and fester.

Some versions of the prayer use the words "forgiving" and "forgiven" instead of "pardoning" and "pardon."

"Pardon" is a rather old-fashioned word, and in some ways, its meaning has changed a little. You hardly ever hear people say, "Pardon me," in these parts--most people around here say "Excuse me," or "Scuze me." "Pardon" seems so formal. "The governor gave him a pardon." These days, it seems more associated with a crime.

But in reality, the word has lost a little in translation. It comes from the Latin word perdonare, which actually means, "to give wholeheartedly." Not exactly the same as the word "forgive."

"Forgive" implies the ability for the one who was wronged to have power over the transgressor. I'm not really sure we truly have power over those who wronged us; in fact, I am pretty sure we don't. But the word "pardon," in its original sense, does not seem to be a "control word." It is more of a liberating word--it raises the possibility that the pardonER is giving up any claims over that person.

But at least to me, the word "pardon" implies a willingness to give up control--to let things go as they may, with, ideally, no future need for control, and no need to feel one way or the other about the outcome.

Really, the act of pardoning is transformational for both the person granting pardon AND the person being pardoned...a transformation that mimics resurrection. Death turns into life. I often think of Lazarus, in his grave and stinking, and have often wondered, "When he came out, alive, did he still stink, and the stink kind of wore off after a spell, or did he come out not stinking?"

I am sure many of you all will want to scrap with me on this one, but I kind of want to believe he still smelled bad, and everyone around him had to adapt for a few days, as did he. I say that because when I have been the one pardoned, it took me a while to trust that I really WAS pardoned.

Thinking back to the last time someone truly pardoned me, I remember it took me a while to believe it. You see, I had learned decades ago the old "abuser-codependent" game where you say "I'm sorry," just to get someone to stop a bad behavior. Then they say they're sorry, they won't do it again, etc. etc., and you know and they know that they will, and hopefully you both will repeat as needed. So when people tell you that your transgressions are forgiven, you just sort of learn they really aren't, that they will be brought back up in your face again, and that is how people can take ancient history and keep fighting the same wars over and over again.

But some time ago, I remember apologizing to someone who didn't do that game, and being told, "We're going to put that behind us and start over, ok?...and I mean it, really mean it. But you have to believe I mean what I say there. I know you're not used to it being this way."

I thought, "Ok, I am going to give this a try." But over the next several weeks I kept a very wary eye on "whether this was for real, or just the same old crap." I probably even tested it a couple of times. But over time, I recognized that pardoning was for real.

Now, that's not to say this person hasn't hurt my feelings or disappointed me in a minor way since. That doesn't mean I haven't gotten on that person's raw nerve a few times. But it turns out, as far as I can tell, I really WAS pardoned. But I still had to walk around with the stench of my own death in my nose about it, and let that smell wear off.

Transformation is simply not usually an instantaneous thing; rather, it is more likely to happen in inches, and over some unspecified length of time. It is not a timed event, either. No two transformations happen in the exact time frame. Nor, I believe, is transformation a "single" event. To me, they appear ongoing, additive, and synergistic.

For isnstance: Perhaps we have an initial transforming event. We might have needed transformational event "A" as a prerequisite for transformational event "B" to even begin to occur. Then event "B" becomes stronger and more genuine because of the power within event "A." Over time we might discover that originally that power was "A" plus "B" but as time marches on, it becomes bigger than the power of "A" plus "B" because we see many other transformations occurring as a result of its power.

Looking at transformation in this way creates something that literally feels like it defies the laws of the universe--and you can't beat a trasnformation like that!



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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