It may seem crazy to imagine Satan having any defining joy in his life. Seriously! Does he countdown days to special holidays? Review photos of favorite vacations with the family? Post pics of him and his buds at a hockey game? Laugh hysterically at anything remotely comical?!
Well…there is one thing – and only one thing – that does get him all giddy in the midst of his miserableness, and we stupid humans seem to love indulging him. It happens when we judge others and refuse to forgive. That is what Satan thrives on, and we seem so eager to comply, even those of us who profess to be Christians. I would go so far as to say “especially” Christians, get sucked into that ego-driven sense of superiority over others. To be honest, I have to confess that I am just as guilty, though I’d like to believe I’m better than I used to be. I suppose it depends on who you ask.
Nearly twenty years ago, I thought the “revelation” that came to me about forgiveness when I was in Kentucky (which I wrote about in my book) was my most profound life-changing moment ever! Until it wasn’t. Even though I came away from that experience proclaiming the magical, mystical healing power of God!
Oh, for sure, I played the game. The “I’m fine. Great actually. No, really! I’m totally healed of all my past shit” game! The game God reveals when, for a split second, I get out of his way. That moment when I let my guard down and leave just a crack in the door of my hardened heart and he shoves his foot in before I can slam it shut again. I hate when that happens!
Recently, I was confronted again by the call of God to forgive. The two people that caused me the most suffering and hurt – my mother, and the relative I have never named publicly, have both passed away. The funeral services were unremarkable and sparsely attended. The realization of that struck me profoundly! Two people that caused me so much hurt, I believe now, suffered more than I did. I never considered that possibility.
I was given the gift of grace when I was able to see the brokenness of their lives and truly feel empathy for them. Yes, they both made messes in my life, but I have also experienced healing, and as a result, have, for the most part, lived a rich and fulfilled life.
I have been blessed with a loving family and friends and have so much to be thankful for. Most importantly, a God who never gives up on me, never keeps count of my sinfulness, and loves me unconditionally often in spite of my foolishness and forgetfulness of his mercy and love. The profound truth of God’s love gets so lost when we prefer to live on the periphery where it is safer and Satan tries his best to keep us there.
A life of faith has always been about transformation; our dying to self and being renewed. It takes place when we step outside our theology of reward and punishment; when we decide we are bone-tired of suffering and causing the suffering of others. It happens when we step into the terror as well as the awesomeness of being human. In that place, God does his best work and can awaken the creation of something new within us. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Father Richard Rohr tells us, “For many of us, suffering is a cycle. We go back and forth, holding on and letting go, healing, hurting anew, and healing again. Suffering, of course, can lead us in either of two directions: (1) it can make us very bitter and cause us to shut down, or (2) it can make us wise, compassionate, and utterly open, because our hearts have been softened.
We’re not perfect. The project of learning how to love—which is our only life project—is quite simply learning to accept this….If you really love anybody then you have learned to accept a person despite, and sometimes even because of, their faults.
Also consider these thoughts of Desmond Tutu on what he calls, “Essential Humility”, “We are able to forgive because we are able to recognize our shared humanity. We are able to recognize that we are all fragile, vulnerable, flawed human beings capable of thoughtlessness and cruelty. We also recognize that no one is born evil and that we are all more than the worst thing we have done in our lives. A human life is a great mixture of goodness, beauty, cruelty, heartbreak, indifference, love, and so much more.“