These first five words might seem on the surface to have nothing to do with each other...like some random shopping list. By the way, I wonder how much a store would charge for creativity or forgiveness? Would we think it was worth it if we could simply purchase that?
But for me, there is a thread that tethers and ties these first five words together.
First, a few words about forgiveness...because I think that word has weight to it. There has been many descriptions and definitions of forgiveness from the church ~~ usually most of these are drenched and dripping in guilt. Most of the time we feel like forgiveness is forced upon us. This starts early in life when a parent demands and decrees that we say, "I am sorry," for taking a cookie without asking or saying something that hurts another person's feelings. We often in the opening prayer at church use the word, "confess". And I know that sometimes what people are reading/saying they may not feel like they did...so why confess? We are given a cultural script of innocent until proven guilty and seen in our culture today people shame and blame others rather than accept that our humanity has brokenness and blessing woven into our DNA. Forgiveness cannot be defined or confined. Forgiveness, in my life, has been a process. Rarely is it one and done. Rarely can I simply forgive and forget. Usually, I try to forgive someone...and then that person says something that bumps the wounded of why I was trying to forgive him in the first place! It can create a spiral. You try to forgive Uncle Albert for his comment against your boyfriend. You let go of tending the fire of anger or fueling the frustration. You try to stop drinking the rat poison and expecting the rat to die. And you are getting there. You show up for Easter...only Al seems to have come up with some new material to frustrate you. Al seems to have the nuclear codes and combination to raise that cackles on the back of your neck.
Second...just as those who cause us pain seem to be creative...so too we need to be creative as well. Sometimes with forgiveness you have to walk away for awhile. This happens in our family all the time. We get in a frustrating situation and we can either - a). dig in our heels and keep debating feeling the temperature of the air rise...OR b). go cool our jets...count to one million - because sometimes counting to ten I have barely un-clutched my teeth.
Third....I think there is a light and dark to forgiveness. The light that shines can sometimes show me both where I might be wrong (my own shadow/dark side - more on that in a moment) as well as what the next right step is in the process of forgiving Al. Or maybe the light helps me see why Al is saying what Al is saying. Maybe Al is trying to protect me...or is letting his prejudice show...or is projecting something of unprocessed pain on to me...or doesn't fully realize I am frustrated...or who knows why? After all, I can sometimes say something and moments later wonder, "Why did you say that, bonehead?!" Maybe Al doesn't realize what he is saying. And when any of us are called on the carpet for something we get defensive and try to deflect. When any of us are called on the carpet that inner five year old trying to sneak a cookie who gets caught comes out and wants to say we are innocent...adjusting our halo. That is human nature. That is our shadow side that we want to hide. The bright light in the darkness can blind us...especially when we prefer that part of ourselves to stay in the dark...thank you very much.
Which leads/lands me on the word, ash. Ashes are usually the residue and remains from something that has been burnt. The ash from firewood or from a palm branch. Ashes are about that in our life which we cannot put back together. Ashes are a great symbol for forgiveness. You cannot go back and un-say what Al said to you. There is no rewind button. So we have to deal with ashes - our own and others.
So, who is Uncle Al for you? Who are you so frustrated and furious with that you are not sure you could ever embody or embrace forgiveness toward that person? Who is that person you might need forgiveness from? Not to force you...not to demand...not to decree...but to invite you into the creative dance of light and dark with the ash of life that might help us forgive and seek forgiveness.
It is my prayer that there is more than a trace of grace in this invitation for you this day and this week.