Saturday, December 10, 2016

The beetle

This bizarre image keeps coming back to me. I see a large beetle attached to my left leg. It’s a lobster-like creature, fiercely biting and holding on to me. I am unable to escape its grip. Its body is shiny black and it has iridescent red eyes, its gaze emptiness. It’s the beetle seen under a microscope, with pincers and a powerful jaw, hairy barbed protuberances all over its body. Except it’s not microscopic—it’s over three feet long. Sometimes it’s just attached to my leg but at times it creeps up the left side of my chest, grabs my heart, and wraps its claws around my neck.

know it is unforgiveness.
I pray to the Lord to remove it from me because I am powerless, unable to do it on my own. Surely God, who can raise people from the dead, can remove a beetle from my leg, can remove the bitterness from my heart. Jesus pulls it off gently, stops it when it tries to regain its grasp, and puts it into the sea. He continues to walk beside me, on my left side, to protect me.

It has been there so long I wonder what I’ll do without it. Who will I be? How will I act when I can walk freely? There’s this unsettling sense that I will miss it, miss the pain, the excuse for not living in freedom.


  1. I wonder what forgiveness really is. Is it never deliberately wishing that harm will come to those who have hurt you? Or is it just leaving the past in the past and living the present moment? I would love to be free, but I can't seem to be able to get rid of that"beetle".

  2. Of course forgiveness can take the form of compassion for the guilty party, for someone who maybe lies, steals, cheats, or otherwise causes harm to others, but also harm to themselves. Those people are widely despised. Someone wanted something you had, but they were also jealous of your traits that brought you to a place in life they wanted for themselves. The bad actor, at the core, wanted to be you. Realizing that makes forgiveness come a little easier.

    Sometimes we get to a state of forgiveness by looking around and acting protectively toward people who have trouble managing the trouble in their own lives, who fall prey to bad actors themselves.

    Sometimes the harm itself is in the past, but it still burns that someone out there put one over on you and "won." That is really hard to get past, even when you can frame it as “what a horrible way to go through life, with human encounters based only on manipulation and conquest.” If they’re sociopaths, they don’t seem to be having such a bad time coping with their own bad actions. Standing clear and warning others can heal the burn.

    Forgiveness might really be about tweaking the narrative so you're the hero of your own story instead of some villain’s victim. I don’t know what the spiritual or religious analog would be, unless it’s praying for help in finding your strength, and then giving thanks once that strength has led you away from crippling resentment and toward safety and freedom.

  3. Thank you so much to the person who posted the second comment (I am the one who wrote the first comment). Precious and wise insight on the issue...

    1. Thank you so much! Donna’s blogs are always so thought-provoking and feeling-provoking, and I never know what ideas will churn up when I get to read one. There’s nothing thornier that’s demanded of us than forgiveness. It seems divine forgiveness comes to those who confess and atone; those are the ones God forgives. So are we asked to do more than God does? To forgive people who are not sorry, who don’t own their transgression, or who deny what they did was even wrong?

      Besides people who aren’t sorry, there’s also the question of how to forgive someone who has caused irreparable harm to you or someone you love. Like a murderer. Again, this might be more than God does by way of forgiving, since by definition there’s no irreparable harm that can be done to God, and God seems to take a far longer view than we can about harm done to others. So in some ways it seems we are being asked to do more than God does in forgiving some of the people who have wronged us. No wonder it’s such a hard place to get to.

  4. Donna, I think your unforgiveness metaphor is absolutely brilliant: the dark, spiky thing that claws at us, digs in, and alienates us from the loving, joyful life we’re meant for. They say forgiveness benefits the one forgiving more than the one being forgiven. Maybe they mean pulling off the feat, forgiving an unforgivable wrong, can elevate us to a higher plane, a sunnier and more resilient state of mind. Emancipation from our brooding, vengeful funks. Or at least most of them, and ideally pulling us out far sooner when we do fall into one.

    Forgiveness would have certain obvious boundaries, I think, such as when anyone invokes it to enable ongoing abuse. Forgiving someone who’s criminally wronged you shouldn't have to mean covering up for them, or letting them continue to do it. As in “Daddy says he’s very sorry and that he’ll never hurt you that way again, so I think we should just forgive him and put this all behind us.” That’s an easy call. But forgiveness is full of hard ones, like the fear people might see me as a dope or a doormat. Anyone who has to decide whether to forgive a spouse for cheating, they think about that one a lot, and for good reason. I know I’d hate to look like an idiot, or like easy pickings for anyone looking to take advantage. Also, it’s possible to forgive and still leave!

    If I was ever challenged to forgive someone who’d killed a person I loved, I’d be afraid how that would look too, like maybe I didn’t have genuine regard for the lost life and wasn’t deeply feeling that loss. So, pretty much fear of looking stupid, weak or apathetic, especially to others who’d also been close to the killed loved one. As I think about it, this fear doesn’t seem so well grounded, being based on distorted image rather than reality. Others who forgive a major wrong don't look weak to me. I usually get that they’re doing something harder than most of us can manage, which is the opposite of weakness. Why would I fear others will judge me harshly for doing the same thing, and why would I care if someone actually does? But I would care, and for me that would be an extremely hard barrier to overcome.

  5. Thank you, Joan, and all you lovely anonymi (is that a word?). You've given me some deep things to think about. Honestly, for me, forgiveness is the most difficult thing I've been called to do. And I do think I'm called to forgive because it's an essential piece in being a follower of Christ. That said--it's so damned hard. I'm still aiming in that direction, trying to visualize the freedom I'll have without that beetle attached to me. An ongoing journey to free myself from the negativity, from the barriers to moving forward. It continues. Again, thank you, all of you. I wish we could sit by the fire some evening and hash all of it out. It would be stimulating conversation. Bless you!