The late Maurice Boyd once said: “There are plenty of places in life that if we don’t pass through them, we perish in them.” That is an insight worth considering.
Take a harm done to you, for example. Initially it is painful, and we are understandably angry. But, in time we have only two choices: either to forgive and move on or to remain a captive to the person who hurt us. On a “Big Bang” rerun, Sheldon confesses to an old adversary that the anger he has harbored for a long time has not diminished. The young man smirks , points at Sheldon’s head, and answers: “That means I am living in there!” In fact, that’s exactly what it means. When we carry unresolved grudges or bitterness, we have allowed the one who hurt us to take up residence within our emotions and thus to continue hurting and controlling us. Thus, when Jesus taught, “You shall forgive your neighbor not seven times, but seventy times seven,” he was advising us how to discover personal peace. Bitterness is one of the places in life that if we don’t pass through it, we will perish in it.”
Guilt is another. To be sure, all of us, however saintly, have unpleasant memories of things we have done or left undone. Words harshly spoken. Relationships fractured. Base hungers fed. Ethics breached. Lies told. We cannot turn back the clock to correct our mistakes from times gone by. Nor can we undo the hurt that may have been done to those who were our victims. But, we do have a choice to make: either to remain immobilized by guilt or to become equipped by memory. By the latter, I simply mean that we can learn from our misdeeds in the past in order not to repeat them in the future. That’s the only purpose guilt serves. And once the lessons are learned, the guilt should be dismissed. Christian dogma teaches that Jesus atoned for all our sins. Not “condoned,” but “atoned.” So, we learn from those memories, but we do not let them keep us from living healthy, productive lives of Christian witness in the future. Guilt is one of the places in life that if we don’t pass through it, we will perish in it.”
Make up your own list. The possibilities are limitless. Fear. Greed. Jealousy. Lust. Self-deprecation. Prejudice. Judgmentalism. Fill in the blank. Those are all very human emotions, but are also very debilitating ones if we linger with them. And, in truth, that is something none of us has to do. When worn out or worn down by our shadow sides or negativity, Jesus says, “Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” In other words, He will help us process the things that burden us, the emotions that make us worn and weary. He will help us learn from them and then release them, that our emotional shelf space might be filled with better, brighter things: like grace and hope and joy and liberation and love. “There are plenty of places in life that if we don’t pass through them, we perish in them.” Thank God, we worship One who says, “Come unto me, and let me show you the way through.”