Did I tell you I joined a “Sounds of Silence” contemplative prayer group? It’s through an Anglican church; we meet in a holy little enclave just off the main sanctuary for two hours on Monday evenings. Lots of silence, reflection, and simply being still. Listening.
Last week we practiced breath prayers (my favorite is to simply breathe in and out the word Yahweh — it’s an easy way to pray without ceasing). This week we focused Jesus’ words, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
Towards the end of the evening we pass the cross (like a “talking stick” for groups); each woman has a few minutes to share something that’s on her mind. One woman — a 70 year old widowed grandma who is bubbly, bright and British — said she’s been taking care of her two teenage granddaughters for two weeks. Their parents are on vacation; she’s been living at their place.
“It’s been a trial for this old firecracker,” she said. “For some reason they were let out of school early today. They brought half the school home! Baking cookies, taking pictures, shrieking, leaving such a mess in the kitchen and everywhere. How do spatulas end up in the loo? I’ve been at my wit’s end!”
It’s been so bad, she said, she started a List of Misdemeanors to tell her daughter about. She has almost two pages of problems, complaints and charges against the girls. She’s been gripping that list for awhile now, rehearsing who gets to go first.
“But something happened while we were sitting and listening,” she said. “I realized that the List of Misdemeanors was meaningless. Petty, even. Who cares about dirty loos and missed curfews? Tonight, in the presence of God, everything just fell away. I’ve torn up the list in my mind, and will destroy it when I get home.”
That is Jesus Christ in action, I thought. And that is exactly what He did for us! He tore up our List of Misdemeanors.
Your List of Misdemeanors
What are you holding onto? Maybe it’s not a “misdemeanor” — maybe it’s a grieving heart, an angry mindset, a critical spirit. Maybe you feel like you’ll never be happy again because you lost your husband or you don’t have the family you want. Maybe your marriage fell apart, your children live far away. Nothing is the way it should be: your coworkers aren’t organized, your body is falling apart, your neighbors are too loud, your government not good enough.
There is no doubt that there are a lot of misdemeanors in this world. And you may be the recipient of most of them! Life can get really hard, unfair, and sad. And some people really do have it harder than others. Some people face poverty, injustice, and tragedies that we can’t even imagine.
But life can also heartmeltingly good, beautiful, and delicious. It just depends where we look, who we talk to, and what we remember.
Echoes of Forgiveness
Pick up your tired old List of Misdemeanors. Get a good grip on it, maybe with both hands. Stew in it for five minutes. Grumble. Complain. Whine, cry, grieve. Judge! Condemn. Weep for the way you wish the world was.
When you’re done lamenting, give yourself ten minutes of silence. Set a timer. Cup your hands lightly and loosely on your lap. Close our eyes. Take a deep breath. Just sit and listen.
I don’t know what will happen when you sit and listen in silence for ten minutes…do you? Have you tried it? Have you ever sat still and silent, just listening to what bubbles to the surface?
Maybe you’ll hear Echoes of Forgiveness, like our bright firecracker of a British grandma did. Maybe you’ll see the world differently. Maybe your load will be a little lighter, your spirit a little more free, your heart a little brighter.
Or maybe you’ll meet your shadow side, like I did last Monday evening. Meeting God isn’t always sunshine and kittens, joy and forgiveness! Sometimes the Holy Spirit brings the darker parts of our souls to the surface, for cleaning and repair and restoration.
But if we surrender to what He allows into our lives — the joy and the pain — we will hear the echoes of Jesus. And that has the power to change everything.
With His love,
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