The Remorse of Orestes [character in The Odyssey]
“Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community, the better for both.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoffer, Life Together
We have many people who contact us, rosy with their ideas of community, life in an order, as if it is like Summer Camp. It starts that way – and you long for those days when they are gone. Sooner or later, it breaks down. Your own sins, stubbornly hanging upon you, bring strife. Others sins do the same. Likewise, we respond wrong, our expectations of others disappointed, and our rosy lens is shattered. Can there be forgiveness? Can there be reconciliation? Can there be peace? Can we return to the “way it was”? Can you trust me again? Respect me? Walk with me? Want to walk with me? Can I walk with you again? Can I respect you again? Can I trust you again? Can I forgive, really forgive? And you? Do you even want to? Do I even want to?
We know God uses community, as He uses a spouse, as the instrument of sanctification. Surgery is bloody though, painful – no, really, really painful. Sometimes it’s not the same and we never recover Camelot. We do well to heed these wise words from D Bonhoffer. There is true wisdom, having lived it authentically.
Funny, how we start life so optimistic. We go through our twenties, seeing truth and life so damned clearly… why can’t those ahead us, see also? We are confident, proud, even aloof and arrogant of our self evaluation, not yet tainted or crushed by reality of our own sin, our own narrow perspective, though we feel it so broad. We are not yet crushed by hurts, not yet come to terms with our plaguing sins that stay with us for years. I once was so optimistic, so sure I would “eat life” for all my days. Troubles dull one. The reality dawns with the reality of our weaknesses and the reality of the blood on our own hands. Being tired comes to be understood well through turmoil, not restful glens.
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgement.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.