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My Chicago Home
How can we best live as modern, active contemplatives where prairie meets city?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Rise Above Judgment

Photo by Eddie Bartholomew
i shrink
pinhead on white

big hands crush my footing
turn my world inverted

i sweat and pray

i know
the world's back
the tossed head
the laughter over shoulder

as my small
ball of a world
is tossed away

By Marianna Robin Bartholomew

In college, we laughingly called this type of poetry "Oh God I'm Suffering Poetry." Every writer probably has a drawerful. I wrote this one years ago. In high school?

I thought of this poem this morning because I was still raw from an event last night where two strong personalities judged and discarded me. As adults, we hopefully move beyond having our world rocked by  others' judgments. A priest on Relevant Radio talked about how, rooted and secure in Jesus, we should never allow another to disturb our peace. 

But, in a setting where people of faith gather to uplift one another, being treated with a lack of charity can react on one's spirit like a cold-water splash. 

My husband looks at me with his rich, brown eyes, and says, "Develop a thicker skin."

Last night, I was adjacent a church. I smiled, waved to a few people, then took a 10-minute sabbatical to step into the  candlelit, vacant dimness. I hope it was vacant, because I spent the next moments on my knees, singing to Jesus in the tabernacle. Songs from years ago, from my old prayer group: 

"I will give You all my worship, I will give You all my prai-ai-ai-aise! You are worthy of my worship. You are worthy of my prai-ai-ai-aise! I will bow down, I will bow down. Hail You as King, hail You as King. I will give You, I will give You, everything. E-e-everything!"

You know. The type of music some people poke fun at...The type of music I sing in the car, shower and on long walks, because my early reversion is all about that type of music -- and the Sacraments and Scripture, where that music led -- and the amazing, warm, motley, non-judgmental group of women, men and children who were re-converting and finding God, and loving me, as I loved them. 

In each other's eyes, we saw Jesus. An irresistible attraction. The attraction kept me going faithfully to "Wednesday Group" whether I was tired, crabby, over-busy, disinclined to drag my baby and two toddlers out to Mass and prayer group...

So, last night I sang my music, and had my moments telling God, "I'm glad You understand me. I'm glad You love me. And I'm glad in heaven, everyone, even all the prickly, judgmental, self-righteous ones -- and I know that includes ME -- will all understand each other."

Back in prayer group, everyone laughed once when I fervently exclaimed, "I can't wait to get to heaven, where I'll know everything!" All the mysteries explained, without a word, except The Word. And in a grand soul-infusion, we'll just know. All our pesky questions answered. And all the things we misunderstand about each other? Fully, blissfully cleared. We'll be transparent as Tiffany glass. Wait. Tiffany glass is largely jewel-colored. But this is heaven, and we'll be jewel-colored and transparent! I know it...

At a retreat once, I heard a priest talk about "The Sensitives" -- people open to the Holy Spirit. As we draw closer to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, God the Father and His Holy Spirit, our hearts warm, open, expand, and become more sensitive. We feel empathy that should embrace and uplift the other.

Yet, we're advised to thicken our skins. Therein lies a conflict.

Part of the answer is to accept the pain that comes with artistic and soul-felt sensitivity, but then move on, and keep our gazes fixed far beyond Self. We should do our little self-examinations daily, resolve and pray to do better, visit the confessional for Actual Grace that keeps our faith vibrant and organic. Those are healthy resolutions. But beyond that basic self-tending, God and Other should be enough to keep us largely occupied.

I saw the humor last night, as I softly sang my praise songs to my Friend in the Tabernacle. I imagined a janitor in the corner, lurking, having a snicker or two at my expense. I know the janitor was stalking the halls last night, crabby, because our group was a bit boisterous, messy, and late in staying. 

In church, I had my moment to regroup, whether with or without the janitor, or some other hidden visitor, as my audience. I took a few breaths, felt God's Presence replace bitterness, then returned to the party, determined to have a good time.

Sometimes, community will burn, not sustain. But it reminds me of Mother Teresa's words:

Do It Anyway 
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway. 
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.  
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway. 
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway. 
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway. 
The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway. 
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway. 
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway. 
-this version is credited to Mother Teresa

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