If the consequence of ‘you reap what you sow’, is anything like the law of gravity, can we logically expect to escape the consequences of our words and actions? How do we un-burn the bridges we have burnt?
Think about a convicted murderer sentenced to prison for the rest of her life. It would be foolhardy for her to plead with God or man to save her from being incarcerated. But she could confess having messed up big time, ask for forgiveness and the grace to accept and cope with her predicament.
Few of us don’t live behind walls or facades of one kind or another – maybe not within the concrete walls of a prison but imprisoned and bound by any one of life’s heart-breaks, broken dreams, grief, sadness, discontent, bitterness, anger, hurt, resentments, jealousies or envy.
And how often don’t we pray anyway, hoping something will happen to save us from the mess we have landed ourselves in? We hope God and those involved will forgive us and carry on as usual in spite of what we have done.
When it seems we can’t get rid of the consequences, it is easy to become despondent and to lose hope. We may become angry at God, towards someone else or life in general and feel things didn’t need to turn out quite so badly. We may deny our responsibility in what has happened, justify our behaviour and blame others. This is sometimes the road we have to travel before we will accept accountability in the matter.
How things turn out and our attitude towards what has transpired can sometimes give us important insights into ourselves. It may be that we lack appreciation, respect or tolerance of other people, of certain circumstances, road laws, common decencies, beliefs and ways that are different to the way we believe things should be. It may be that we want our child, husband, job, home, status and respect back without doing the necessary, and often hard work of examining ourselves and acknowledging where it is we failed, and why.
It can take a while before we are ready to examine our own consciences and do what is necessary to pick up the pieces and move on – somewhat like an anesthetic, a time of respite. Sometimes we need professional help and healing before we can accept or even see our part in the mess-up.
Many years ago Merlin Carothers wrote in his book Prison to Praise, how beneficial it is to look for something to thank God for in the circumstances we find ourselves in. Viktor Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning wrote how it was those who could find some meaning in their suffering that were best able to survive the horrors of the concentration camps. The bible is full of injunctions to believe that good can come out of all things because of God’s love for us.
I remember once my friend, Joyce, and I praying for my father and his alcoholism. One Monday visiting him and his wife, he told me that he had spent the weekend in prison on a charge of drunk driving – of course quite erroneously! Later that day I met Joyce for supper and she commented on an accident she had been involved in on the previous Friday when a drunk driver had smashed into her car! Unbeknown to each other, but known to me – father dear father.
For two weeks I tried without success to get hold of my father to ease his anxiety and tell him what I knew about the accident. Eventually he got hold of me and told me that he had gone to his employer in desperation for help with his alcoholism. When I told him that he had had an accident with the very person praying for him, he said he wanted to meet her. When they met his first question to her was “how did you react to me bashing into you”. Joyce answered straight off: “I praised God because I know he will work all things for the good.”
That was a turning point for my father to know that God loved him so intensely to allow the accident with Joyce, so as to speak definitively to him of his worth to him.
My father went into rehab feeling that he now had something to replace the bottle with – the reality of the love of God. He died six months later from cancer of which he had been totally unaware. Before he died he called in my mother, my brothers and sister to ask us all to forgive him for the hurt and havoc he had caused in our lives. I will always remember his frail frame and his joyful anticipation of meeting his maker. I thanked God that his long battle with alcoholism had come to an end and that he would never again struggle with his Achilles heel.
There are easier ways to learn the important lessons of life, but like a child warned to stay away from the fire learns only to do so once burnt, we too sometimes take the more painful route.
When we find the pearl of great value within our suffering, we will treasure it and know that whilst it came at a cost, we are a better, stronger and wiser person because of it and would not be without it.