By Deana Hartman
“The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?” -Dorothy Day.
Right before Christmas last year, FirstLight had an All-Ages Worship focusing on “Finding Hope” during advent. “All -Ages Worship” includes interactive stations for children through adults within worship where time is made to interact with God and others. The stations included:
* A listening station with lyrics for reflections
* A space to practice body prayer
* Forgiveness for our sin by writing it on a rock and prayerfully dropping “letting go” of this sin in a large pot of water.
* A place to practice centering prayers through the act bubble blowing
* Sabbath stop complete with reading materials, games and places to interact with others on bean bag chairs and area rugs
* Clay to images of Jesus in the scripture
* Writing confessions in sand and prayerfully erasing them
* Watercolor painting and reflection on clean water in other countries
* Christmas Card creation for others during advent
* Hands of Hope for others through writing and reflecting
I approached the one of the stations with great hesitation was called, “We Forgive Others.” Since I am part of the worship planning team, and put together the instructions and materials, I planned to leave this station for last, thinking that I would just run out of time, but like a magnet it drew me to it before time was up.
The instructions for the station said:
We Forgive Others
God forgives us, we forgive others
Many times we light candles when we say prayers for others in tough situations.
- This time, light a candle of forgiveness for someone in your life.
- Read the prayer of forgiveness.
- Reflect on how your prayer will help you take action with this person. What will you do now?
You see, I’d been struggling with a relationship in my workplace. There was a lot of distance that between me and this person put there by both of us. What it came down to were a few things. First, our job positions put us at odds in a weird sort of check and balance of ideas and implementation on the website. Also, this person had more authority power over me, but I had more knowledge power. Often we would clash based on these two types of power. And even though one would ‘win,’ technically neither of us were winning as the animosity and distrust grew. By last December, the distance between us was immense and approaching toxic.
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. ” -Mark 11:25
So here I stood, looking at the station about forgiveness, knowing that if I started this process at this time, I had to not only forgive what had been done to me, but also change my behavior. I also needed to admit fault in where I was at as well. I knew that anger and hurt are easy emotions at my disposal, but grace and forgiveness takes discipline. Truly, it was a point-of-no-return to an old way of acting and reacting with this person.
I took a candle, lit it, and said a prayer for this person as I placed it in the sand.
Since then, God has been working on me. I heard somewhere that if you pray for patience, God doesn’t give it to you but the opportunity to practice it. In situation after situation, I’ve had the opportunity to practice grace towards this person that God gives me more often than I deserve. Occasionally in the past few months, I visited the prayer center on Sunday and lit another candle for this person. That act became easier as the months progressed, but the change in my attitudes and behaviors have not been easy. Often it has taken all I have and prayer to keep from slipping back into old habits. The whole situation has forced me to think from another’s point of view, to see what can be seen through their eyes.
I saw the culmination of that first prayer and candle came this week. Instead of avoiding this person, I approached and discussed some work business. The conversation went very well. There was no mistrust or wielding of power. We were working cooperatively toward a solution. As I left the office with my boss, who had been witness to this transformation, she said, “It’s grace Deana that did it. You gave grace, and grace is there now.” Thanks to God for the grace in our lives.
The 4th of July, “Independence Day” would have been ideal for the sake of sounding great, but today will have to do. Independence day is a day we celebrate and recognize that 200 years ago, a group of people declared a revolution against tyranny. Perhaps it is also a good day to look at our lives and identify a relationship where the absence of grace and presence of anger and hurt are present. Perhaps it is a day to declare independence on old habits and dependence on God, grace, love and change to begin the reconciliation process. Perhaps.
Deana Hartman creates modern art quilts saturated with color, stitched texture and beaded embellishment which can be viewed on her site. She is part of a church plant called FirstLight – a United Methodist Faith Community and lives just south of Kansas City with her husband Wayne, daughter Kayla, a Cairn Terrier named Zo, Halo the moose-dog, and a herd of cats. No, really, they are a herd.