This has been the week for pastoral care of many sorts. I've mentioned a parishioner who is angry with our rector because of what she perceives as a lack of pastoral care in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Her solution to this was an email to the vestry in complaint. Another parishioner and vestry member jumped on board - darn that triangulation - and the rector responded by being very defensive. So I spent a goodly amount of time talking with both of them, trying to get them to calm down the rhetoric and to reach out to each other as faithful Christians. Not sure how much I accomplished there (maybe a teensy bit), but I think it was work I was called to do.
Last night we had the parents of the pregnant teen who's living in our basement over, so we could all sit around the table and talk through the plan for the future. We've made clear that we'd like them to be in their own place by Thanksgiving. They are both looking for work again, and she is starting to get help through the county for medical care, etc. Her mother is so very angry, and really started to lash out at both of them. Not productive, of course, and she reduced them both to tears before we could refocus the conversation to the future needs of the forthcoming child. At the end of a long and difficult conversation and a couple of boxes of Kleenex, we all had a plan that we think might work, and we think a lot of the venom was discharged. I'm hoping it is the beginning of a healthier relationship between them all. At the end, the mother said, "I guess I've got to stop being so negative about this. It doesn't help." True words.
In both cases, I was struck by the difficulty of forgiveness. Barbara Cawthorne Crafton wrote a beautiful piece on forgiveness yesterday http://www.geraniumfarm.org/dailyemo.cfm?Emo=537 . Our lectionary tomorrow is Matthew 18:21-35, about how many times we are called to forgive. The part that really hit home was how forgiveness is not really for the other person whom we forgive, but for ourselves, as a way to getting back into right relationship with God. In each case in my owrld this week, the lack of willingness to forgive stood in the way of a person's happiness and sense of wholeness.
I think of a problem we had a few years ago when our prior rector was being attacked by a small group with a specific agenda. He eventually left, although I think this incident was just one part of his decision. One of our parishioners, who had really adored him, continues to be unhappy about he was treated, and regularly talks about wanting "justice" for what happened to T. She still is angry at another parishioner, whom she feels urged T to leave. Several of us have talked to her about the fact that her view of the situation was not true, and even if it were, she should move to forgiveness. She's stuck in the moment of her anger, and stubbornly doesn't want to let go of it. Whether she thinks she'll get justice - whatever that represents to her - if she clings to this anger, or whether it ties her to fond memories of T in the past, I can't say. But I do know it stands in the way of her moving forward.
Looking back on my divorce, it took me a very long time to forgive the ex for ending the marriage. Until I could, I was stuck in that awful moment, and was only half a person. Once I did, I could be so much more present for my children, and it opened my heart to the possibility of love again, which led ultimately to my remarriage to PH.
I'm also dealing with an ugly situation in my work right now - the blame game is in full force, and I'm part of the team trying to resolve it - so once again I'm challenged to forgive those who are acting in their own self-interests in this situation. While I'm angry, I'm not at my most effective in coming up with a solution. So I should take some of my own good advice, and not pick at the scab of my anger, and look forward to my Lord.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, having mercy on me, a sinner.