L. and I were talking about the Hebrew and Greek words translated as "repent" in the Old and New Testaments this morning. "Shuv", the most commonly found one in the O.T., means to turn, return, or come back. "Metanoeo" can be described as a change of mind, thought, or thinking, a turning back to the Lord that changes our very essence.
We talked about how repentance is seen as a coming back to God, or a refocus on our merging our will with His, or a turn to his grace. And L. mentioned that it occurred to him that the same sort of healing process starts to happen not only as we turn towards God and away from our own sins, but also as we turn our minds towards God and away from the sins of those whose sins have caused us immense pain as well.
Jesus said "In the world you shall have tribulation". And we do. Even he himself could not escape the pain and sorrow the world was to give him.
Wayne Muller pointed out in his writings that the thing is that, rather than fully acknowledge and accept that pain and sorrow, when it comes, as part of mortal life that takes place in the time it happens, we instead habitually seek to name or blame the ones whose sin "caused" us this or that particular pain. Or, if we feel guilty about blaming that person, we subconsciously find other actions done by other people to blame for the pain we feel--as if it weren't for them and the stupid things they do or did, we wouldn't be dealing with this pain and its attendant sorrow.
Sin is one thing that may be assignated as perpetrated by an individual. But pain is independent of that. Pain just is. It is something that blows through our lives and opens great depths of emotion. And it "is" in the life of each individual, sinner or sinned against, innocent or guilty, malicious or clueless, independent of the side or position taken in any conflict or relationship in any area of life. Removing our focus from the sin committed against us or against those we love--removing the notion that our pain was caused by that sin-- and understanding that the sin and the pain we feel are two independent things, allows us to see our pain face to face, accepting it for what it is and begin to truly grieve, which softens the pain and starts to allow us to let go.
Our challenge is simply to let what was true be true: We were hurt. It was real. What we needed, and hoped for and longed for was not there. When we simply and independently acknowledge the deep sadness of that loss, the pain and/or the loneliness, when we simply grieve over deeply painful experiences without "if onlys" or "whys", but just fully face, name and acknowledge the hurt and pain we feel we are on the way to closing the story and healing and "turning back" (shuv) to the sense of life with God and changing [metanoeo] the core of our being..
Years ago I served as moral support for a friend in group therapy sessions she was participating in to deal with childhood abuse. I learned the value of naming the pain. It seems that just as "repenting" (shuv, matanoeo) of sin requires naming that sin clearly and fully without blaming others or casting blame on your circumstances, so does turning and transforming from pain require naming our pain, clearly and fully, without blaming others or their actions or seeking to name the reasons "why".
It is when we name our pain, independent of the actions of others, divorced from the blaming (logical or diverted) we've married it to, and bring that to God, that we have turned to him with what he can heal in us. All souls can be healed by His power. All pain can be soothed. In Him, we can “find rest unto [our] souls.” Our mortal circumstances may not immediately change, but our pain, worry, suffering, and fear can be, slowly and surely, swallowed up in His peace and healing balm. But we must know, speak and bring that pain by itself..
And that turning to Him with the fully named pain, without its being attached to anything else, is what starts us on the path to freedom from the past, letting go of our rancor or anxiety and pain, free to be born fresh into this moment, slowly but surely increasingly unencumbered by our endless struggles with past stories and able to see the now more clearly. It does not mean that we will not be sad anymore or ever again. It will just mean that we are on your way to becoming people for whom sadness grief and pain have become the author of greater understanding and peace and universal in our life instead of the author of misery and anxiety and a troubled mind.
Ette Hillesum, a holocaust survivor, wrote:
And you must be able to bear your sorrow: even if it seems to crush you, you will be able to stand up again, for human beings are so strong, and your sorrow must become an integral part of yourself; you musn't run away from it.
...Give your sorrow all the space and shelter in yourself that is its due, for if everyone bears grief honestly and courageously, the sorrow that now fills the world will abate.
There's a helpful exercise and meditation to consider HERE, on pp 13-17, if you are interested.