Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: choices (page 1 of 8)

The Crack in the Middle

I went to bed before Ohio had even 1% precincts reporting and awoke to some minor chaos. My best commentary comes from Krista Tippett’s new book, Becoming Wise, in a section highlighting her interview with Francis Kissling:

“You have got to approach differences with this notion that there is good in the other. That’s it. And that if we can’t figure out how to do that, and if there isn’t the crack in the middle where there’s some people on both sides who absolutely refuse to see the other as evil, this is going to continue.”

This is our work. If your preferred candidate is going home or to the White House, change will only arise if we keep that crack in the middle, the people – of both sides – who refuse to see the other as evil.

Those who voted for Trump might be tempted to gloat and use victory of evidence of right-ness. Those who voted for Hillary or any other party might be tempted to question the moral character of their neighbor or our collective  nation. Both of these reactions create space in the mind to believe that the people we live with and among are not in some way good, which will get us nowhere. In another four years, we will find ourselves at the exact same place of divisiveness and anger.

Those who voted for the next president are not evil. Those who did not vote for the next president are not evil. In times of question, concern, frustration or celebration, the hardest place to be – and in my opinion, the most vital to humankind – is the crack in the middle.

 

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Forgiveness for Whom?

I try extremely hard to not speak on behalf of God. Instead, I’m inclined to report on what God didn’t say. The ways that holy scripture can be twisted for personal benefit is endless, especially to an audience who has such little understanding of the culture to which it was originally written (a BFD, in my opinion).

So when prominent Christian leaders make big public statements, I hold my breath. On the one hand, we need their wisdom. I have my own personal favorites and when she or he speaks, I listen and absorb. I try to filter and use my own wisdom, but I know I’m never perfect in that regard. Sometimes I trust because I’m not at the point of being able to sort it for myself. And that’s okay. But Big Christian Leaders may not always keep this in mind. In fact, sometimes it is exploited.

Now that several Big Names have asked the Christian public to forgive Trump, I feel compelled to offer a warning; a reminder about what forgiveness involves.

Forgiveness is rarely about the offender. It’s about the offended. To be clear, Trump hasn’t asked for forgiveness. He doesn’t feel he did anything wrong. So we’re not offering reconciliation because his heart has softened and he realizes the error of his ways.

Often, forgiveness arises as a means of freedom for the one forgiving. It’s a weight you don’t have to carry anymore. Sometimes, we have to forgive and forgive and 10 years later you find you’ve picked up that same baggage and accidentally started toting it around with you again. It’s a conscious decision to set something aside for the sake of your own heart.

Jesus challenges to us to forgive in a limitless supply, because in forgiving others we lean into our own forgiven state – and vice versa. Often we feel more compelled to forgive once we realize our own forgiven-ness. Freedom begins to define us, rather than the smallness we feel with guilt and hatred. And the more you forgive, the easier it is to forgive again.

When you forgive someone, you’re freed from their actions defining you. This does not give license to the person to continue to hurt you. You can forgive someone, set that weight aside, while not inviting the behavior back into our lives.

The church has a terrible, nasty history of using forgiveness as a means of holding its people in situations that are unhealthy. “You need to forgive” – especially when in context of Jesus’ words that we will only be forgiven to the extent we forgive others – are weighty words. No one wants to feel un-forgiven, so the threat of a heavenly withholding can push people into corners.

Church leaders have used this logic to keep women in unhealthy and even dangerous relationships. Some pastors have been quick to tell the woman that her job “as a Christian” is to forgive – and while forgiveness is a godly goal, it is not synonymous with staying. Forgiving doesn’t give him a right to do it again. You can leave, and forgive. 

So when these leaders are pleading for a man’s forgiveness, let’s be clear: it’s for the sake of their own conscious. They’re looking to rectify their hearts with what they know to be wrong.  It is not synonymous with staying. It doesn’t require we go back.

If Trump followers want to forgive and move on, that’s the work of their own hearts. And it’s a good work. Forgive away, because the world needs more of it. But please don’t be convinced that such work requires you support the continued work of the forgiven, especially when the forgiven person has made no indication of change. There’s no evidence that it will be different next time.

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Weeds

I spent a considerable amount of time this week among the Lamb’s Ear in the garden. Here’s what you might not know about this common plant:

  1. It has herbal remedy properties. My herbalist sister calls it “nature’s band aid” because it’s able to adhere to your cut or scrape to keep it clean.
  2. It’s prolific. It has flourished under my black thumb.
  3. It’s actually quite beautiful. It has a silvery look and is soft to the touch. The blooms are also attractive.
  4. Some would classify it as a WEED.

There’s a class of people who turn their noses at the Lamb’s Ear, and after such work of getting rid of it, I might join the club. I’m pretty certain the previous owners of the house planted the flower in a few places as part of the landscaping, yet I’ve spent hours yanking it out by the handfuls.

More than once, I’ve wondered who gets to decide whether a plant is, indeed, a weed or worthy cultivation in a flower bed. I mean, who had it in for the dandelion? Ask any 5-year-old and they would tell you that it’s a complete atrocity to believe the sun-headed flower could be such a nuisance.

I decided the line between flower and weed gets crossed when you no longer have the ability to keep it where you want it to grow. It gets out of order. It might even take over.

A plant goes from desired landscaping to pesky intruder when the gardener is no longer in charge. It might be beautiful. It’s probably helpful in some way. You might even really like it. But it gets out of control. And keeping it around means more rewardless work than beauty and enjoyment.

I have to wonder how many of us keep proverbial gardens full of weeds in our lives. It’s probably something we originally planted with purpose, but it grew uncontrollably, perhaps to the extent that it’s overgrowing a beloved rose bush. This thing in your life: it could be beautiful. It’s probably helpful. And you might even really like it. But it’s out of control.

Sometimes a plant is a flower. Sometimes it’s a weed. How do you know the difference? Check the health of the plants around it. And ensure you have space to walk – if you cannot even move about, to enjoy it’s beauty, what’s the good of keeping it around?

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