Our season of Lent is both a gift and a challenge. It is the gift of time for us to read, study, and reflect on who we are on our journey in faith. We need an ever deepening faith, so we can enter more fully and faithfully into the challenge of the desert/wilderness experience. This is an essential element for each of us on our spiritual journey. From this journey, there is no escape, if we want to be transformed.
Each year, the Lenten journey, is an unique one-of-a-kind, never before entered into event. We never will again enter into the desert as the same person and we do not come out of the experience the same person. From our past Lenten journeys, and our encounters with our garbage, there has been a new spirit given to us which allows us to live a life of greater freedom as beloved daughters and beloved sons of our heavenly Father. Over the years I have spoken about how the garbage of life can really affect the joy that is ours on our spiritual journey. G A R B A G E can be broken down to Guilt, Anger, Resentment, Boredom, Anxiety, Greed and Envy. Erma Bombeck describes Guilt "as the gift that keeps on giving." Also, from John O'Donohue's book "Eternal Echoes," and please, read this quote slowly and reflectively. "Sometimes we feel guilty about things in the past that should hold no guilt for us. Because we feel bad about something, we exaggerate our part in it and retrospectively ascribe more power and freedom to ourselves than we actually had in the actual situation." Guilt in and of itself is useless. It belongs to the past, and the past is over and gone. Regardless of how guilty you feel, you cannot return to that time, enter the situation, and now, act more honorably as you wish you had at the time.
When personal guilt in relation to a past event becomes a continuous cloud over your life, you are locked in a mental prison. You have become your own jailer. Although you should not erase your responsibility for the past, when you make the past your jailer, you destroy your future. It is such a moment of liberation when you learn to forgive yourself, let the burden go, and walk out into a new path of promise and possibility. Self-compassion is a wonderful gift to give yourself. You should never reduce the mystery and expanse of your presence to a haunted fixation with something you did not do. To learn the art of integrating your faults is to begin a journey of healing on which you will regain your poise and find new creativity. Your soul is more immense than any one moment or event in your past. When you allow guilt to fester and reduce you like this, it has little to do with guilt. The guilt is only an uncomfortable but convenient excuse for your fear of growth. Guilt has to do with the self-forgiveness.
"To begin with, "Confession is good for the soul." It is hard, humbling and difficult. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I have come across many people who have never forgiven themselves. They have placed themselves in a prison of guilt and shame. There is a difference between the two. Guilt is, "I made a mistake." Shame is, "I am a mistake." Somewhere we need to be able to say, "I forgive you." We need to bring our guilt and shame to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and then accept the words that we are forgiven. This forgiveness, God's forgiveness, will depend on how we forgive ourselves. "God's mercy is greater than our sins." (Henri J.M. Nouwen)
It is helpful to write, not type, a letter of understanding and forgiveness to yourself for the actions of the past. This is not about excusing, but understanding. Then burn it. Let us use the season of Lent to deal with guilt and give ourselves the gift of forgiveness and freedom.
To be Continued...