Scripture relates that the Lord visits the sins of the “father” on the next generations. Since we now are able to enjoy the grace that Jesus brings, my understanding of the Hebrew Scripture is a little different in regard to what the “sins of the father” actually means. I am not responsible for the sins of other generations, but it is possible that I can be affected by them when I do not make the choice to walk in grace.
In my formative past, I was deeply affected by an unreliable family member who let me down because s/he had not accessed Jesus’ grace in his/her own life. Due to that behavior, I have struggled in my own adulthood with phone calls which are not made or returned, feeling ignored, and feeling unimportant. Both being late and having others keep me waiting unduly or failing to meet deadlines and commitments frustrates and upsets me.
Today I was stressed and anxious because of a particular friend who often brings memories of this past hurtful behavior into my current life. I have tried for years to help this friend understand how this affects me to no avail.
I went outside to bring the recyclables to the trash and it occurred to me that I had exhausted myself fretting about it during the day. My thought was “that stupid so and so…%$*& him/her.” My friend is oblivious, but I’ve chosen to internalize the issue personally and bring the sins of one generation into my life which is under grace. The result is hurt, anger, and fatigue. Why? Because I have forgotten God’s grace.
I stood there on the sidewalk, holding a bag of empty Fresca cans, flattened cardboard, and toilet paper tubes, frozen in place. Frozen because of the temperature and by my thoughts. First, my friend is clearly not stupid. S/he has advanced degrees and many talents.
I realized that I had denied God’s grace in my life and tried to mask my hurt by mentally calling him/her names and thinking about that family member from the past. For me, anger has often been useful in hiding what is actually hurt underneath. I have been mentally “cursing” myself by how I’ve been handling this situation.
In mentoring underprivileged children, I’ve taught them about mindfulness by teaching them to use all of their five senses in the present moment. Often, if they were fussing amongst each other, I would say “Ssssssh…listen. Tell me everything you can hear.” We would identify all the sounds and their combativeness would turn to competitiveness as they struggled to hear and describe the most sounds. We would go on to colors, smells, and things that they could feel such as the breeze on their skin. Soon, all I would have to say during the next fussing was, “Sssssh…” and they would start the game independently.
This evening, I played the game by myself. I set the recyclables down and stood there…listening, observing. I looked at the sculptural beauty of leafless trees set against the amazing colors of the sky at that moment just after sundown and just before the dusk. I heard the crunch of the snow underfoot as others passed by. I smelled wood smoke and felt the pain in my shoulder from hunching them all day. I considered the sins of the previous generations which I chose to bring into my life today and my resulting blindness to the beauty all around me. Just like I set down the recyclables, I decide to lay my burden down…that burden that I have carried from elementary school.
My friend isn’t stupid and isn’t purposely hurting me. His/her personal chaos spills over into my life. His/her life is not under grace yet, but through prayer, I know it can be. S/he isn’t here to make up for my past hurts.
However, for now, I need to back off from the friendship. While I take ownership over the deep level of hurt I chose to have, I have communicated that I found this behavior disrespectful. I hope that there comes a time when s/he is able to hear me and include my boundaries in our relationship. Right now, I understand that s/he is not in a place in his/her journey where this is currently possible.
However it IS possible for me to walk in the kind of grace in which I can acknowledge the hurt without anger and move forward in Jesus’s healing.
Did I ever mention that I live along a tributary of the Elizabeth River?
I'm gonna lay down my burden, down by the riverside,
Down by the riverside, down by the riverside
I'm gonna lay down my burden, down by the riverside