Saturday, October 8, 2016
Sunshine and Shadow
What we do matters. It matters a lot. Cause and effect. How we act. What we say. How we think. It makes a difference in the long run, even when we may not be able to see what comes of our efforts. We are standing in the sunshine, and the shadows we cast can be very, very long indeed.
Yes, I've written about this a lot (and I'll leave it to you to ferret out those many postings) but it's something that is often on my mind. It's important. Recently I've had the opportunity to see the results of some choices.
My tenant came to see me a couple of weeks ago. She had news to tell: good news for her, bad news for me. A relative was offering her a place to live so Tenant was planning to sell her trailer and move. She was worrying that I would be upset but I was happy for her, grateful that she would be someplace she would feel more secure. And somehow, despite the loss of her rental payment (which serves as a significant portion of my income), I feel in my heart that things will come out alright.
When she asked my help and advice in selling the trailer, I agreed and I told her the person she should approach first because he was likely to be a certain buyer--one of our neighbors. Things moved with unexpected speed after that. Neighbor and his wife came by to ask me to show them the trailer since Tenant was at work. We did a walk-through. I made them welcome and answered their questions. They immediately agreed to the purchase. Done and done.
Nothing is ever simple, of course. There has been ensuing confusion and upheaval, matters to be resolved, ruffled feathers to settle.....and all with me in the middle. This is precisely the sort of stuff I find hardest to cope with. But each of those people has said they felt secure in trusting me, and that has helped me to remain calm in the whirlwind. I feel sure that all will be well with this sale.
How do I know? Neighbor brought me a golden treasure: 15 persimmons. His tree didn't produce much this year, he said, but he wanted to share his gratitude for my help with the trailer purchase. This was a big gift, and I will honor it--persimmon butter, I think.
But that's not the point I want to get at.
You see, something bad happened here this past spring;
something that could have turned out much worse.
Neighbor's Wife unintentionally caused a three-alarm blaze. She started a garbage fire and then left for work. Unchecked, the fire consumed an outbuilding, seared through a property line fence, crossed another neighbor's driveway burning the trees and shrubs along side it, and then roared into my re-wilded side yard devouring the trees, native plants, and wild blueberries in its path. (You can read more about it in this post: Mama Said There Would Be Days Like This.)
At the time, I said that God would somehow make something good out of it all. And I meant what I said. It is because I believe in God's grace, that I did not retaliate against my neighbor. I was very shocked and upset but I knew that, despite my feelings, I had a choice about the behavior I displayed. So I did not revile or accuse or blame. I let it go. My house was okay. No lives were lost. No one was injured. Plants will grow back. There was no point in creating a different sort of blaze: the fire of anger.
What people frequently fail to realize is that forgiveness is an essentially selfish act. When we forgive, we free ourselves. Fostering anger in your heart is, as someone wise once said, like taking poison yourself and then waiting for the other person to die. It doesn't work. Forgiveness does. It simply means that you let go of your right to be angry. That's what I did with the fire. I treated my neighbor with respect; after all, we have to live on the same street and we likely will do so for years. Peace is of far greater importance than assigning blame or seeking retribution. So I made the determination to let it go.
Forgiveness is not passive. It is not something silky smooth and slick to begin with. It's more like a splintery board that wants the application of sandpaper. You have to work at it. It requires effort. But the results can be beautiful.
Now, Tenant's trailer will be easily sold to Neighbor, and everyone is happy about that. I am sure that Neighbor will respect my property when the trailer is moved. Neighbor's Wife, who is quite shy, was able to come here with a smile on her face, and she felt comfortable talking with me.
Would this have been possible if anger had been allowed to take priority?
I can't take credit for any of it. The lessons I have learned in life have come through hard experience allowed by a gracious God who trains us up in the way that we need to go. People are also like splintery boards wanting the application of sandpaper and the work of a kind hand. We can forgive because we have been forgiven. I am really truly deeply grateful for all of it.
Life is good.
Whatever the future brings is bound to be good as well; not easy perhaps but surely good.
.....persimmons ripening on the dining table