By The Justo González, II, M.Div., M.S.S.A., M.A.P.M.
Last week a full day spring cleaning took me on an adventure. I suspect you are familiar with this adventure and it’s probably inviting you to the same hard work that was put before me.
Ministry and love has taken me to multiple states for additional education, pastoral ministry and to be there supporting my partner. As a result of these rich experiences and the pains of my life, I’ve been carrying boxes of physical, emotional and spiritual stuff from state to state and relationship to relationship. I’m tired of carrying stuff. Maybe, just maybe, you are too?
“Rev. González” has his stuff together. Believe that even if it’s not always true. I want you to see that I am well rounded and that I am a centered individual. Most times I am. Being 53 and living all the up and downs of life has both beat me up and taught me well. The joys have helped me become who I am. My successes have given me confidence. Family, friends and mentors have guided me towards the right path for me.
There is, of course, another side too. La verdad es (The truth is) that life has given me a smack down more than once. I have been dumb and I have made bad choices. I don’t like admitting that. Who does? Yet, in admitting my flaws and my brokenness I have grown even more than when everything is good.
I haven’t enjoyed getting beaten up by life, love, other people, ministry , my own insecurities and all the curve balls that have come my way. Can a pastor say, “Oh, hell no I haven’t enjoyed those things”?
Like all us, I’ve had to make some tough decisions and my toughest decisions are those that cause me to look inward. I just want to get it over with and move on but I’ve learned that simplistic response lacks a profound understanding of the work that needs to be done to come to my own internal healing. It’s not only about others forgiving me. It’s about Justo forgiving Justo. It’s about you forgiving yourself for the pains you’ve caused, the disappointments of your life, the anger and rage that is within and ultimately finding your peace.
No one can take away your peace unless you let them. Give no one that much power over your life and happiness.
I’ve humbled myself, accepted responsibility for my actions and have asked for forgiveness even though those who have hurt me should really have been asking forgiveness of me for their actions. Daring to admit your flaws and forgiving others for the things that they have done that have caused you pain isn’t easy. Easy is for wimps.
The hard work of asking forgiveness is about peace. Find your peace. Forgiveness isn’t about the other person. It’s about you coming to terms with a situation and claiming your peace. Receive your peace this day.
What I’ve learned is that you don’t have to be right. It’s ok to say I don’t know. There is power in admitting that we messed up. It’s ok to be human and not have all the answers. Indeed, it’s even ok not to have any answers.
But no, most people can’t do that. Society and our Latino@ culture has told us to be right and argue and fight. Most us have heard the saying, “el oh ella me lo hizo y el oh ella me lo va pagar.”
It is ALWAYS easier to blame others. It is NEVER easy to look at ourselves honestly and openly and own our own stuff. My boxes invited me to look at the reality of my past life and acknowledge how my words, actions and deeds caused me lots of trouble. Indeed, I have hurt others even when I did not desire to do so. As a younger man, I was unable to own my stuff. So I did what many do and have done: BLAME OTHERS. What good does that do?
Over the years I have even forgotten the contents within each box that has travelled with me. I only knew that I needed to carry that stuff with me. There are so many of us carrying stuff we feel the need to carry when in reality God is calling us to the Spring Cleaning of our lives.
As a pastor and a therapist, I have experienced firsthand that I am not the only one that carries stuff around from one place to another. What are you carrying around? More importantly, why are you still carrying it around? Carry that which brings life-giving energy into your life.
Yet, we are also called to look at the painful stuff. The hard stuff. If we only focus on the joys of life we will create a delusional image of ourselves. Real men and women don’t run from the pains of yesterday. It’s time for many of us to get real. We’ve got business to handle. Let’s do this.
Stuff happens. Stuff hurts. Stuff has caused pain in your life and may even have you stuck right now. Stuck on stuff is not a good thing.
Like the Israelites of the Hebrew Bible many of us have made a 40 day walk and 40 year process of walking in circles of pain, hurt and brokenness. Ignoring your pain, your brokenness and the hurts of your soul is a modern day form of walking in the desert. Aren’t you tired already of carry the stuff of your life with you everywhere you go? Isn’t that painful enough? So why do you also walk in circles going nowhere fast? Aren’t you tired of finding out you were at the same place in your life yesterday? How about moving forward rather than in a circle?
When we don’t deal with the inner issues of pain, hurt, loneliness, self-esteem or the lack of feeling loveable or experiencing true love in our lives we choose to go nowhere. Nowhere is a painful and dreadful merry-go-round that condemns us to reliving negative behaviors, past pains and leaves us with an internal void. Maybe there is a better way?
The boxes of our lives revisit us to teach us a lesson. Are you paying attention? What are your boxes of stuff hoping for you to discover that maybe you missed on the last visit of those boxes?
The Rev. Justo González, II, is the Pastor of El Nuevo Camino United Church of Christ. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your comments are welcome.