Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The state of grace, pt. 1

There's a lady at my church that doesn't act much like a lady. At least, in regards to me and - therefore - in my estimation. In a few instances, she has very openly assaulted my character, once to me a few years ago, once to a close friend about a year ago and then again to my face less than a year ago (after we got back from a church retreat, wherein, she confessed, her opinion of me hadn't changed) and then again last week, indirectly, to my wife.

My opinions of her opinions (and, of course, extending to her) were pain-stricken and grievous. Each attack of hers (save the last one to me) brought great defense from great and well-meaning people who gave great testimonials on behalf of my character (which, I must admit, isn't always so great, but certainly not worthy of trashing). Each attack also hurt and infuriated me, to various degrees.

My conundrum raises in this topic, this key turning point of human relationships, this sphere where Jesus meets geopolitics meets the common man meets the hard heart meets the Middle East meets Northern Ireland meets Auschwitz meets the cross: forgiveness.

As little as my church puts into liturgy (sometimes much to my chagrin), in our practice of the Lord's Supper we find one important and oft-repeated rule spotted and highlighted by our pastor. If you have bitterness or unforgiveness or hatred in your heart directed at a fellow worshiper (and by this he explicitly means someone in our small church), before you take this cup, go to them and make it right.

On one of these ocassions, she eyes me, slowly makes her way up some five steps and leans to me. She confides that she never much cared for me or trusts in me (but she doesn't know why), that she had actually prayed against me (!!) and that during a recent church leaders' retreat, she didn't gain any new confidence in me.

I didn't know I was on trial.

And I didn't know (and really still don't know - nearly a year later) how to handle that. She didn't ask for forgiveness. She didn't offer it. If anything, it was opportunity for a fresh wound, a tearing of the flesh on an old knee-scraper I hadn't really considered since I originally hit the ground. So, I leaned to my friend, a big burly dude, and just flooded his shoulder with my tears. He still doesn't know what it was all about. Then again, neither do I.

This memory was violently returned a little while ago, when the same opaque charges were made against me to my wife.

I have a student at my school who does not act much like a student. From every appreciable view, he does not come into the scholastic setting to learn, to better himself, his options or his surroundings. He also does not come into the classroom to even pass time (which, unfortunately, is what many of our students do do).
He comes - from everything that I can sum up - to disrupt. Actually, to be the center of attention.

And since I am his teacher (and understandably have a desire to be that center myself) we are often at odds, often butting heads and comments. It's a grand and vulgar chess game that we play.

And I want to believe in him as much as I want to believe that every student can and should learn. I just believe he doesn't want to - he's not convinced that it is right for him, not at this stage in his life. And in the meantime, anyone who dares get in his way is his exasperated victim.

Being one of his teachers, I see him five days a week for an hour and a half a piece. His classmates, on the other hand, are surrounded by his anxious (and usually destructive and self-serving) energy for approaching five hours five days a week.

But I'm the one in power, if tenuously. And, I'm white (although he knows that I'm partially Latino). So, I'm a racist to him. Never mind that that label goes against every fiber of my being. Never mind that I've spent countless hours examining my heart and my nation's fiber in dealings with race relations. I know I should ignore it. I know that he's merely trying to goat my herd. But it hurts at a level deeper than nearly any other label can hurt. And he consistently does it.

What do I do with people that constantly hurt and then act as if they've been victimized? I know that I'm not perfect in my actions or reactions to them, but should I allow such things to be as if it's the natural and right way to interact? Should I forgive those who don't lament or acknowlege their evils? Should I continually and blindly turn my cheeks, to the extreme that my flesh may be worn and torn from my puffy face?


  1. I've encountered some very similar things. How did I deal with it? No better than you - probably worse.

    I've come to understand that most people who act in this way are hurt or hurting in some way. You may represent to this lady something or someone that caused the hurt. It's no fault of yours and she may not even realize it.

    Ultimately, we cannot control what others think of us or do to us. And it's not our responsibility to even try. We can only control what we as individuals do and how we react to those around us. THAT is our responsibility (and it's something I need to work on).

    Sorry to ramble - that sort of struck a chord I guess. Good luck with this situation...

  2. yeah. and that's it. really. my wife, i and a few select friends have come to see that pattern with this lady. (i feel like jerry lewis saying that: Laaa'-dee!)

    the hurting people hurt people line, which she knows to heart and will regale one with her own tales (and yeah, she's been through some horrible mess). but to her, i don't hurt. maybe it's my own look of detachment that sets her off.

    anyway, thanks.

    stay tuned for edits and further additions.


Be kind. Rewind.