by Daniel Malec
Mark 12:30-31 (NIV): Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
As I reflect on this scriptural reference from Matthew, I am struck by the order that Jesus has laid out these commandments. Loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength comes first. I am coming to realize that these commandments are likely laid out in this order for a reason. Too often in my life, I make personal commitments to forgive and move on, yet my heart and mind seem to hold on and not let go. This leads to more pain and resentment and it seems the cycle goes on even though my intention is to let it go.
I find myself in the midst of this cycle now. Since we moved into our house over a year a half ago, we have been embroiled in conflict with our next- door neighbor. Throughout this journey of discord, pain and resentment, I have experienced tests to my faith like almost none other. What does it mean to love our neighbor when it feels like she is constantly attacking us and making false accusations against? How do I practice forgiveness when what I really feel is resentment? Why am I still holding on to so much pain and anger when I keep trying to forgive and move on? This conflict has cut to the core of who Alys and I strive to be. We desire deeply to be good neighbors – to help build a healthy and loving community. Instead it seems that our life commitments are an insult and an affront to our neighbor.
In my conflict resolution work in schools, I often encounter students that appear to be dripping with resentment. I often share with them the saying that is attributed to the Buddha: “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” My expectation often is that they will grasp the harm they are causing to themselves and then let go of the resentment. I have found through my own journey with pain and resentment, that this is far easier said than done. I have gained more compassion and empathy for my students and their burden of carrying resentment.
While I have been trying to forgive and move on from this conflict with our neighbor, I continue to be caught holding the burning coal in my hand. I can’t seem to let it go. I believe what is happening is that I am trying to do this according to my time and not God’s. My focus should be on recognizing the pain and resentment that I feel and to offer it up to God. Once I do that, then I believe my duty is to focus on the first commandment so that God can show me how to forgive and love my neighbor according to God’s plan and not my own.
One thing we have known for sure throughout this journey, is that God is in the midst of all of this. God did not lead us around the country for a year and have us settle next to this particular neighbor for nothing. There is something in this that is far bigger than us, but I have not been able to understand it yet. I think that is a bit of the point. God has invited us to trust, period. God has not provided us with the answers to all of our questions, but if I truly believe God and God’s invitation to mercy and justice, then I have to believe that the answers will come according to God’s time. God is faithful … all of the time 🙂
During this Lenten season, I want to make room for you in my heart and mind. I want to make space for you, but I want to be honest that you will be sharing space with some unsavory thoughts and emotions. I offer those thoughts and emotions to you as well. I patiently wait for you to transform them into instruments for your peace and justice. Transform my heart and mind into a sanctuary for you and your divine light. In Jesus’ name I pray.