Wednesday, January 11, 2017

"because I knew you..."

"who can say if I've been
changed for the better,
but because I knew you,
I have been changed for good..."

I was deeply moved watching Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel's final performance of "For Good." What a beautiful way to circle back, bringing sweet closure to a year that has been full of opportunities for spiritual growth -- but all, for good.

I can't help but think of the experiences and people that have touched my life. Each one has changed me -- for good. Yes, each one for good.  For good [vs. for bad] -- but also for good, meaning forever. Because of you, I will never be the same shy girl, the broken waif, the bitter teen, the confused and self-destructive young woman, I once was.

It didn't happen in a flash. But it happened. Little by little, each of you has given me an insight, an experience, a perspective that has shifted my sense of things, and these shifts in consciousness have changed me -- for good.

I noticed a significant change just the other day. I was having an online conversation with another woman. She was describing a new project she was excited about. And I was just as excited for her as I would have been if I were launching a new venture. There was no comparison, no desire to respond with my own accomplishment, none of the old feelings of failure. I was genuinely happy. Not just for her, but for the world we share -- I was happy that something new and beautiful was being born, and it didn't have to have anything to do with me.

I've been thinking a lot about this since that realization. I have noticed how content I feel with my life. All the old ambition to "become" something has melted away. All the desire for having the cutest house on the block -- is gone. I feel peaceful in a way that I can't ever remember feeling before. It's lovely.

I have been changed -- for good. There is a deep contentment in witnessing the accomplishments, successes, and achievements of others. There is peace in just showing up for my life -- my family, my friends, my community, my work -- without the need to prove anything to anyone, but God.

Recently I have been looking deeply into what Mary Baker Eddy's writings contribute to my relationship with others. There are too many profound insights to share in one post, but this long-loved statement from her autobiography, Retrospection and Introspection bears repeating:

"There are no greater miracles
known to earth than perfection
and an unbroken friendship."

Yes, it implies the importance of sustained affection between friends. But "no greater miracle?" When I was a girl, my family moved around -- a lot. My sister was my only enduring relationship. We had our ups and downs. We shared a bedroom, clothes, friends, and interests. We fought. Because I really didn't have any other long-term relationships -- until after high school, I was ill-equipped for the comings and goings of affection in friendship. I thought everyone would be like my sister. Regardless of what we'd done, or said, to one another -- we couldn't "break up." Not so.

It took me many years to discover that my relationship with my sister was one of the most precious gifts in my life. But it also took me as many years to discover that I needed to nurture friendships beyond what was easy or even necessarily expected. If I wanted to understand the "miracle," it was incumbent upon me to invest the time, attention, affection, and forgiveness that it would take for any version of "us," to weather the ups and down of being in relationship with another human being. Over the years, I began to see the profound wisdom in Eddy's words. Each of those relationships have, and continue to, change me for good -- and that's the miracle.

But what about the other relationships in my life -- the ones that I can't file under the heading of "friend?"  What about those people who have come into my life, and for one reason or another -- or at one moment or another -- I might have had a contentious, envious, dismissive, or even just less than friendly relationship with. The people I've been hurt by -- or more tragically -- have hurt with my own words and actions. For a long time, I believed that the best thing to do was to walk away. Yes, forgive - or hope to be forgiven, but walk away. These statements - among many in Eddy's prose writings - from an article titled, "Love Your Enemies," have often called me up short:

"Who is thine enemy that thou shouldest love him?
Is it a creature or thing outside thine own creation?

We have no enemies. Whatever envy hatred, revenge,
-- the most remorseless motives that govern mortal mind --
whatever these try to do, shall "work together for
good to them that love God."

It has taken me years to realize that by being willing to cross swords with my own sense of being a victim, or a villain, I have become less judgmental, and more compassionate, patient, and  kind. In short, it is the relationships that I once considered "less than friendly," that have changed me the most, and nurtured the qualities in myself that I most love.

This has been particularly true in relationships where I have been the one to have made mistakes in judgment. By learning to say "I'm sorry," rather than run away from a situation rife with self-reproach, I have discovered that I am bigger than my mistakes.

I believe that each person that comes into our lives, either by example or engagement, encourages us to grow in grace -- in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds.  I believe this is why our Lord's Prayer begins "Our Father..." To discover the very best in ourselves -- humility, compassion, courage, meekness -- we need each other.  I can't become my best, without you.  

No matter who you are, where our relationship started -- or stands today -- because I knew you, I have been changed for good.

with Love,


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