Think of a time and a relationship where you have taken someone for granted, when you were unaware of practical love poured out for you.
In the poem “Those winter Sundays” the narrator recalls how his father after a 6 day working week rose early on the Sunday, his day off, in the perishing cold. He got out of bed to re-ignite the “banked”up coal fires so that his family could get up more slowly to a warm house. As a child and teenager the narrator remained indifferent to his father’s diligence towards his family. Now a mature adult, he is reflecting back on that time in his childhood:
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?
When you think of a time when you took someone’s loving care for granted, how does it feel; discomfort, a niggling sense of guilt, irritation towards the person? Perhaps you blame them for allowing you to take advantage of them. Or perhaps in retrospect you feel a sense of shame for how you were then and gratitude now for their gracious act.
Think of a time and a relationship when a close friend or trusted colleague let you down; deserted you in a time of real need; rejected or betrayed you thinking that they knew best.
When you think of that time, how did it feel? A slap in the face, a punch in the gut? Did it leave you with a nasty taste in your mouth and feeling sick in the stomach. Was the rug pulled from under your feet? Were you left heart-broken?
I am using bodily clichés deliberately. When someone close to you deserts, rejects or betrays you it is like a body blow. It hurts though out your entire body. The feelings are shocking and strong and sometimes sudden.
And what happens to the relationship? Does it survive? Is it irretrievably broken? Perhaps you are not able to break from the relationship completely and need to remain civil to the person for reasons outside your control. On a superficial level all may appear fine. Yet you are more guarded, more self-conscious around them, no longer willing to confide.The trust has gone. Perhaps you feel a little less joy, a little less innocent and a little more alone.
“ If love should count you worthy,and should deign
One day to seek your door and be your guest,
Pause! ere you draw the bolt and bid him rest,
if in your old content you would remain,
For not alone he enters; in his train
Are angels of the mist, the lonely guest
Dreams of the unfulfilled and unpossessed,
And sorrow, and Life’s immemorial pain.”
(Extract from: The Penalty of Love by Sidney Royse Lysaght)
“ Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the Law, and the elders.
Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard. Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi! and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him…
Then everyone deserted him and fled.
(Mark 14: 43-46;50)
Is it possible that even in the act of letting him down, in the act of desertion; in the act of betrayal, instead of destroying our relationship, Jesus was in the process of reconciling a deep intimate and loving relationship with our three in one God?
Suggested Music: Amazing Grace sung by Il Divo
For someone who did you wrong: John O’ Donohue
Though its way is to strike
In a dumb rhythm,
Stroke upon stroke,
As though the heart
Were an anvil,
The hurt you sent
Had a mind of its own.
Something in you knew
Exactly how to shape it
To hit the target
Slipping in to the heart
Through some wound-window
Left open since childhood.
While it struck outside
It burrowed inside
Made tunnels through
Every ground of confidence
For days, it would lie still
Until a thought would start it.
Meanwhile, you forgot
Went on with things
And never even knew
How that perfect
Shape of hurt
Still continued to work.
Now a new kindness
Seems to have entered time
And I can see how that hurt
Has schooled my heart
In a compassion I would
Otherwise have never learned.
I have begun to glimpse
The unexpected fruit
Your dark gift had planted
And I thank you
For your unknown work.