by Davin Franklin-Hicks
We are called to love. We are called to love those around us. What about this, though: Those around us are who we are called to love.
This removes the fantasy element of all of this. Now we are dealing with names, dates, places and times. We are dealing with life in real time. This is a different discussion all together because it is the marrow of life, the relationship aspect of our dwelling together. And it’s where everything can get messed up. There are so many moving parts that often require intention and care.
Anne Lamott says that we are on this Earth without a manual because this is forgiveness school. Wouldn’t that be something? If my purpose on this Earth was to be able to forgive? My access to self-forgiveness and my access to forgiving those around me often get in the way of my call to love. Now my ability to recount every wrong that someone has done is amazing. Where others may have athleticism, I have this down pat. If the Olympics offered resentment as a sport, you’d want me representing you there! And I am certain I am not alone in that. I am certain we could spend just a little time observing the world around us and find some Olympic quality resentment. And we don’t even have to observe the world around us; we can simply observe the world within us.
This is lived experience. Lived experience is often far different from imagined experience. It is in the lived experience that we get to have access to realities that change the very fiber of our being. Those around us, right now, are who we are called to love.
The recounting of wrongs, resentment embracing and the tit for tat lived experience does not allow access to grace. It allows access to what is due, not what is healing. A lived experience in which we keep record of wrongs and the score card limits our own access to grace. There is something so life affirming in affording someone else grace when the score card is full. In my own spiritual development, I have recognized that when I turn toward forgiveness and choosing love, I am turning toward that in my own life as well. I open that door to you and suddenly that door is open to me. I have access to a lived experience that before was completely blocked. I have access to the very love that I long for because I have offered it to another.
Richard Rohr speaks eloquently on this topic in his book, “Breathing Under Water” which is his description of choosing a life lived in spirit. He says this, “Grace will always favor the prepared mind.” It is not that grace isn’t extended to all. It is. Grace is all around. The love of God is all around. Our ability to have access to this grace and love is often in direct proportion to our willingness to turn toward love.
I lived in South Africa in the late 90’s. I was a 7th grade school teacher. I moved there at age 18 so I was a baby teaching babies. I was having it out one day with one of the students, Akhona Mvandaba. We had argued and argued and argued that year. I offended him. He offended me. Our score cards were oh so full! I don’t remember what triggered the moment of change, but something did. He said something that I didn’t like and we were on our way to the principal’s office. He had his angry face on and so did I. We were huffing up the way when our path was blocked by a Mama. Her name was Esther.
She asked why we were angry. I let it out, listing his bad parts that were just not acceptable. Then he let it out listing all the reasons why I just was not good people. As we took turns, Esther took my hand in her hand. She then reached for his hand. We continued as she held our hands. She began to say “Peace. Peace. Peace.” I responded to Akhona’s last sentence with furvor and anger. She started to rock with a sway, side to side, “Peace. Peace.” It went back and forth as she swayed. And the quiet began to rest on me. It began to rest on him. Peace. Peace. I cried. He cried. It was such a hard year. “Peace. Peace.”
She blocked our path to anger and spoke peace into our beings. And something changed fundamentally. There was no anger left, just sadness at all the moments we didn’t love each other. We swayed with her and the gentle rocking presence of God rested on us. Peace. Peace.
Those around us are who we are called to love. As Richard Rohr so eloquently put:
“Grace will always favor the prepared mind.” But then he continues, “Maybe we can sum it up this way: God is humble and never comes if not first invited, but God will find some clever way to get invited.”
Look around. The invitation is right in front of you.
Image above: My students at Valley Dawn Christian School in Willowvale, South Africa. Akhona is in the back row second from left. – Dax