Wednesday, September 23, 2015

the Book of Life

In the Jewish religion, as the sun set last night, the Day of Atonement began. It is a solemn day, a quiet day, a day to reflect and to pray for the coming year ahead.

When I was a child, I used to think that the Book of Life that was spoken about was a real book, and that we would either fail to measure up and not be written into it, or we would miraculously make the grade and find our names there.

Now I see the playing out of our lives as more of a team effort, if you will, with more in our own hands than we would like to think. It is daunting to be responsible for our own lives. It is easier to absolve ourselves of the responsibility and say it all rests beyond our reach. And maybe some of it does, but not all of it.

If it is true that we are made in the image and likeness of God, then we’ve been selling ourselves short for far too long. We, too, are creators, able to fashion the world we are given into something of beauty and love and light. Is that what we’ve done? Is that what we are doing? Is that what we will do?

If we are created from the Divine force of good, of love, and of mercy and compassion, is that who we are showing up as now?

This is a day to reflect on that. This is a time to take stock, to decide, to repent, to wipe the slate clean and start anew. But the truth is every day brings with it that opportunity, if we would but avail ourselves of it.

In the Jewish religion, we must first seek forgiveness from those whom we have wronged, before we ask God for it. And we must forgive others before we ask forgiveness of God. In short, we must clean up our own messes. And I believe this would be a different world and we would lead far different lives if we did this every day.

So let me start by saying, if I have hurt or wronged you in any way, I am sorry and I ask your forgiveness.

I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately, because I lost someone recently who had been in my life and that I genuinely considered a friend. I did not lose them to death. It was much worse than that. I lost them to unadulterated honesty.

I suppose I should be grateful that I’ve never experienced this before in my 50 years. And I am. But I am also wondering what the lesson is, because not to come away in some way better for any experience is a waste of the experience.

So perhaps at least part of the lesson is to be willing to live in the not-knowing, in the ultimate unfoldment of life. Perhaps the lesson is to pray for those we don’t particularly feel inclined to pray for, those we don’t agree with or who have hurt us profoundly. Perhaps the lesson is to come away more loving and compassionate toward a world full of people who have been hurt far worse than me.

Who we are when we are treated unfairly or meanly matters. Who we are at our best moments and our worst moments should not be all that different from each other. It is not our job to help karma along. (I know, karma in a Yom Kippur blog? I’m inclusive of all traditions. Let’s just leave it at that.)

So on this Day of Atonement, I pray to be a loving heart, a forgiving spirit, and compassionate listener, a perseverant peacemaker and a bringer of hope to all whose paths I cross.

I pray to sever the bonds of unwillingness that would keep me playing small and residing in pain, bitterness, and resentment. I have no need for those things, so I lovingly release them now.

I pray for the strength to walk the road that would most benefit this world with the time I have left, however long that may be.

And yes, I pray for both you and me to be inscribed in the Book of Life.

Whatever your beliefs may or may not be, I wish you peace in your heart, joy in your soul, and abiding, eternal love now and always. 

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