BREATHING UNDER WATER – Week 4
Our Online Lenten Devotion uses Richard Rohr’s book, Breathing Under Water and Pastor Melissa Earley’s sermon series on the book. Rohr connects the Gospel and the Twelve Step Program. Addiction can be a helpful metaphor for sin as it helps us know how God can heal us in the depth of our soul. Each week, we will add a few discussion questions and our own reflection. Please join the discussion by commenting in the comments box.
Week 4 by Alice Lonoff
Step 8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
From the Richard Rohr companion journal: It is important to go back and repair the bonds that we have broken. “Otherwise others will not be able to forgive us, will remain stuck, and we will both remain a wounded world. We usually need to make amends to even forgive ourselves.”
Matthew 5: 23-24 – “If you are bringing your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother or sister has anything against you, go first and be reconciled to him or her, and then come back and present your gift.”
Write about some significant times in your past when you have hurt or failed someone. Begin to think about ways you can repair the damage that was done.
Over 20 years ago, a fellow member of NUMC was sufficiently hurt and angry about actions taken by a task force that I served on with her that she left our church in a huff, leaving behind a widely circulated letter outlining how unfair the process was and how she, personally, had been badly treated.
The letter mentioned me, and shook me up. Our pastor, understanding my distress, put his arm around me and said that the congregant owed me an apology, not the other way around. I interpreted his kind words to me as permission to put the matter aside, and not pursue it with her or try to talk things through. My own emotions were pretty raw so I needed time to think.
But the whole situation always bothered me, and I kept the letter in a drawer for many years. Someone must feel very aggrieved to write a letter like that. I could understand why she was hurt by some things that happened. I think it would have helped both of us if I had reached out to her, acknowledged her pain, and talked through the things that bothered her.
A few times over the past many years I have started to pen a letter to her to acknowledge her hurt, but the letter has never been finished and mailed. I hope to be able to look up her name, try to track her down, and mail her the letter. When I started the first draft of this reflection, her name eluded me. This morning it came to me, so perhaps the very first step in this process has begun.
Step 9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
From the Richard Rohr companion journal: Amazing Grace is not a way to avoid honest human relationships, but to redo them – but now gracefully—for the liberation of both sides. Nothing just goes away in the spiritual world; all must be reconciled and accounted for.
Proverbs 25: 11-12 (translated by Richard Rohr) – “Like apples of gold in a silver setting is a word that is aptly spoken. It is a golden ring, an ornament of finest gold, such is a wise apology to an attentive ear.”
What relationship would you like to redo? Write about things you did wrong, things you might have done differently. What change can you make today?
My children are now 30 and 33. Like many parents, I tend to recall most vividly the times I failed my children. I was not always present in the moment, and did not often listen well or attentively to what they were saying while they were in their formative years.
I cannot get those years back but I am trying hard to listen much more carefully now when I get the chance to talk with them. One time, a few years back, my daughter mentioned something about the boyfriend of a friend of hers. I said, you mean “Paul”? Her jaw dropped and she said, “Good job, Mom!” I realized at that moment just how low the bar had been set. I now strive to listen closely each time one of them shares something with me.
REFLECTION FROM WEEK 3: