by Joanie Butman
Every year as part of Lent I try to attend a spiritual seminar. This year’s Walking the Spiritual Path focused on hurts, regrets, resentments and their toxicity. The speaker noted something that prompted yet another idea for a Lenten offering – something anyone could satisfy. I think God will be pleased with this undertaking – not because He needs it, but because He knows I do. That’s so like Him.
At any rate, one of the highlights of this year’s event was the speaker’s observation that in Latin resentment means “to feel again.” Why would anyone want to experience a hurt repeatedly? Sounds crazy, especially in light of Einstein’s definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” Why then do so many of us choose to nurture resentments, stubbornly refusing to release them despite knowing doing so would be cathartic? I’ll tell you why. Because we are a vindictive bunch. Letting go of the hurt and resentment would also mean relinquishing our excuses, our victim status, our need to be ‘right,’ and/or our base desire for retaliation – passively or aggressively. For example, was it a wise choice to send my first husband’s mistress a singing telegram at the office, recounting their sordid affair, publicly humiliating her? Probably not, but I’m pretty sure stoning is illegal, and I hadn’t learned Romans 12:19 yet. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Thirty years later, and a lot wiser, I still feel ‘kind of’ bad about that choice. (What can I say? I’m still evolving.) At the time, however, it felt darn good. It took many sleepless nights to devise a plan to express my wrath that wouldn’t land me in jail! As satisfying as it was to lash out, it did nothing to assuage my own pain, which lasted a lot longer than hers I’m sure. Who knew that sweet revenge is an oxymoron?
There is a slew of adages reminding us of the danger of holding onto resentments, yet many of us still fall into that trap from time to time. With this in mind, I decided to honor Jesus this Palm Sunday with a new tradition. In memory of His processional entrance into Jerusalem with the crowds laying palms on His path, I too will lay my own palms – each one representing a hurt or resentment that has been holding me hostage for far too long, whether it was something done to me or something I did to someone else. Those are even more toxic because they were my choice. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” He included all our sins. Even the ones we haven’t committed yet! He yearns for us to leave our burdens at the foot of His cross. It’s why He came and why He died. It’s the only way He can heal us – when we are willing to surrender the very things that continue to hurt us.
When I was young, I use to make crosses out of the palms distributed during Mass to pass the time. This year I’m going to make LOTS of them (not during Mass), each one representing something I need to put to rest, trampled by His work on the cross on my behalf. Of all my Lenten oblations over the years, this one will be the first that will truly allow me to celebrate Easter with the joy and gratitude He deserves.
What will you choose to lay at His feet this week?
Something to help you meditate on what you want to lay at the foot of the cross: