lentI don’t know why I felt like referencing Hunger Games with that title except that the story of Peeta Mellark and Katniss Everdeen in the final book/movie, Mockingjay is one of reconciliation and forgiveness. If you will recall, Peeta was captured, tortured and given hallucinogenic drugs to torture him into believing that Katniss had betrayed him and was evil and not his partner. He wanted her dead and even physically attacked her. Their reconciliation was a story of easing of tension, vulnerability and finally belief in some deep, known trust in the other. Peeta would say things like, “you love me. real or not real?” He can’t even trust his own senses. He has to rely, completely on his own feelings. His intuition that Katniss is good.

So what does all this have to do with Lent, forgiveness, reconciliation, and happiness? I have no idea except when I watched that movie, I asked myself, “reconciliation. real or not real?” The answer from God is REAL! We are like Peeta running around this world. We believe that our assessments of reality are the way it is. We believe that our truth is The Truth. We grudge hold and think our hurt is the only thing that matters, when really we are running around being bitten by tracker jackers and hallucinating all sorts of crazy emotions and ill intent. We lose ourselves.

If we could step back for one moment and realize where we are, like Peeta finally did, we would see that there is love everywhere. There is love from above there is love by our side. Even when people try to isolate you, you have it in you to reclaim the love in your life. So, how do I know this is the case? I have lived it over and over and over again. I know that there is only one way this happens, that is YOU HAVE TO GIVE IT UP. Like Peeta Mellark, you have to give up your tracker jacker view of the world. You have to decide to be vulnerable. You have to decide to trust even when you have no good reason to do so. You have to decide to be wrong and see the world from a new perspective.

Every year when Lent comes along, I feel like I get a chance to exercise this bone. It is not something I naturally have inside me….that is what people who love their grudges and love their skewed perspective of the world like to posit. “You are different than everyone else. I could never forgive.” or “I could never just decide to be happy and do it. ” or “You infuriate me with your ability to stop your misery and be happy.” Frankly, that one is always the best when somebody is genuinely upset that I know how to be happy and vulnerable and free. Well folks, it wasn’t always like this and it isn’t always like this.

Being happy and free and living in forgiveness is not something that just happens. It is something that you commit to. It is something that you pray for, diligently. It is an attribute that you wrestle with God for. So…is this all mumbo jumbo to you? Let me break it down.

  1. Happiness does not happen in the past and it doesn’t happen in the future. It only happens in the present moment. Our brain calculates the present moment in snapshots of about 7 seconds. You have to be in that moment. The present 7 seconds rarely allows time for grudge holding. Being present takes A TON OF PRACTICE. Make a commitment to meditate 3 minutes per day. Every time your brain wanders or starts replaying past shit or making lists for the future, acknowledge it and let it waft away. Pretty soon being present will become a ton easier.
  2. Happiness takes a commitment in and of itself. I don’t always do it well. I get mired up in the murk of my life and get down and sad. However, I retain, in my heart, a rigid commitment to happiness and joy. You have to just decide that each and every day you are going to be happy. Sometimes twice a day. Sometimes 100 times a day.
  3. Happiness leaves no room for a judgmental heart. The second I am in judgment of others is the second that I am unhappy. The spirit of God has left me. Further, with the same measuring stick I use to measure others, God is going to measure me. I hate that. I want a broad girth of judgment from God. I want to let people live and have the attitude that everyone has their own perspective they are coming from. I will let them live their life and by corollary, they can let me live my life.
  4. Happiness is a place of love and is the antithesis of grudge holding. No matter how a person has wronged you, you have to figure out a way to give it up. Call on God. Plead with God. Stop depending upon other people’s actions for your well being. Again, I don’t always get this right. It is a constant work in progress. However, you have to have the heart that this is what you are going to do. When somebody asks for your forgiveness, you need to give it in the way that you want God to forgive you when you ask….not half assed.
  5. Happiness creeps in when you realize you cannot control other people. Did you hear that? You have no control of anyone but yourself. All you do is ruin your own happiness and that of everyone around you. When you harbor this tracker jacker notion, you are continually setting up expectations for everyone around you. They are bound to disappoint you. Nobody can live up to that level of scrutiny. They don’t even know how….heck, they likely don’t care.
  6. Happiness appears when you make boundaries for yourself that are only about you and your actions. You get real clear about what you can and cannot do. You get real clear about limiting the control other people wield over you. You cease to allow people to poop all over your parade. Believe it or not you can set boundaries in love. You can maintain them in love and…you will be happier for it.

As I said, I am one of the most flawed human beings you will ever meet. I get it wrong over and over and over again. I am constantly putting my foot in my mouth and spilling the beans. As recently as yesterday I was in a deep sadness. It seemed as if the universe wanted to remind me of all this. God said…don’t get too complacent, real shit happens and you have to stay in a place where you can pray and commune with me and be present with me and with those you love. Lent….you gotta love it! The shining star of all of this is that I learned all of this, and so can you.

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