Whenever something bad happens, there’s a part of me that thinks I had it coming.
God is punishing you, I’ll tell myself. God is coming after you for all the bad things you’ve done.
It’s crazy, it’s unhealthy, and yet I still do it.
I’m just getting over another bout with chronic fatigue and, as usual, I made matters worse by getting angry and believing that I had somehow brought this illness upon myself.
You’re so arrogant about staying in shape, I scolded myself, that’s why you’re getting sick.
It’s a dark kind of ego trip, where I believe the Creator of the Universe is gunning for me—like He doesn’t have enough to do already. It’s all about me—as long as it’s bad news.
I got so upset last week that at one particularly low point I sent a desperate plea up to the Almighty.
“Whatever I did,” I said, “I’m sorry.”
Blind apologies usually don’t make much sense or have much value, but then I wasn’t thinking very clearly.
Just a few days later I was listening to a web cast of a service at Trinity Church. Rev. Canon Anne Mallonee was preaching that day and she talked about finding a message written on a welcome card in one of the pews.
“Listen,” she told the congregation. “Listen with the ears of your heart, not just your mind.”
And so I listened as Rev. Mallonee read two simple sentences and my heart nearly cracked in two.
“Please don’t let me lose my job,” the message said. “I’m sorry for what I did.”
Sending Out An S-O-S…
That’s all. No name, no explanation. It was an anonymous cry for help, like the survivor of a shipwreck putting a message into a bottle and hurling it into the sea.
I have no idea who this person was, but I instantly recognized the mindset, the frantic, illogical belief that connects our misdeeds—real or imagined--to our misfortune.
I would like to know what this person did—or, more importantly, what he or she thinks they did that was so terrible. I know from personal experience that we often believe we’ve committed the most heinous deeds only to find that the rest of the world doesn't see it that way.
I don’t see God as a heavenly accountant, moving our lives around like beads on a universal abacus, determined to make sure everything adds up.
But fear can conjure up all kinds of irrational beliefs. It's just easier to spot them in other people rather than in ourselves.
After reading the card to the congregation, Rev. Mallonee spoke directly to the author of the message.
“Whoever you are,” she said, “blessed are you for you admit your failure. Blessed are you for you are free from the greatest barrier that humans put up between us and God’s mercy…human pride.”
She added “if you keep this attitude of total supplication and openness, God will bring you through it.”
I hope this person doesn't lose his or her job. And I truly hope he or she comes to terms with whatever they supposedly did.
If you can somehow make up for it, then do so as quickly as possible. If you can’t, then believe you have been forgiven and climb over this barrier.
I’ll see you in church.