Wallowing in the messiness of life
One of my children returned to the nest to live with me for two months.
He came back angry. Angry about his past and how the adults in his life had failed him. Angry about his father and my divorce and the years following it, where we could not always be counted on to coexist and put him before our issues with each other.
He speaks the truth. We did a poor job at times.
Now he blames us.
I know how he feels. I felt the same way about my parents. I lost sight of their unwavering love, heaped all my anguish and fear upon them . . . and blamed. It has taken decades for me to forgive them and the other adult betrayers in my life — years to take responsibility for my own life and not let the sins of my fathers drag me down, excuse my behavior or hold me back.
I came across this quote by G.K. Chesterton, “For children are innocent and love justice, while most of us are wicked and naturally prefer mercy.”
Ah, the lure of sweet ripe justice! It is forthright – swift and easy to pluck. Mercy not so much. Mercy is elusive — hard to get a grip on. It lives in the gray area where things are complex and murky. I can see that my child wants the easy justice and does not yet have the capacity for true mercy. All I can tell him is, “Learn from our example. Don’t make the mistakes we did.”
He also does not yet know that there is no end to the mistakes you can make in life and that he will make his share too. I do not ask him for mercy because true mercy takes time — sometimes a lifetime – of missteps, misadventures and often years of unproductive wallowing in the messiness of life.
I have no need to rush him – even if I could. He must take his own journey.
So, I witness. I commiserate. Inwardly l say, “Let it rip. Say it out loud at last!” I recognize that this is progress. The first step toward healing for a child who suffered for years, self-combusted internally and did not give a voice to his pain.
That said, the moral of this story has less to do with this child and more to do with my own growing up – my own long journey toward a preference of blessed wicked mercy over justice.
Now I give myself and others credit for managing to stay in the game, in what is a decidedly unjust and crazy-making world. I can take the slings and arrows of justice this child throws at me, gather them in my hands, and hold them with gratitude and compassionate mercy for the both of us. I have regrets, but am no longer haunted by oppressive parental guilt. Hard, intractable guilt goes hand and hand with justice and can only exist in a rigid universe with an immutable standard of perfection – a mythological standard I no longer struggle to meet.
In my world now, nearer to the end than to the beginning of my long adventure with life – “doing the best you can” has become an act of true heroism.