I'm reading more about Julian of Norwich. My professor wrote a paper that describes Julian's radical vision of how humanity reveals the love of God. Her Christology affirms the idea that the divine is expressed in our sensuality (not sexuality, but the fullness of our senses and affective selves). She goes into detail about the passion of Christ not as payment, not as kenotic emptying, but as Christ's fully entering into human experience through suffering and embodying nearness to us as well as love. His passion, then, is the most visible expression of his humanity.
That affective aspect of Christ's "being with us" is expressed in tenderness. Tenderness is a word my professor repeatedly uses throughout her paper. I keep coming back to it.
Today I was not tender. I hit a low. Sometimes when I'm pressed all the way to the wall, after I feel I've gone out of my way to extend myself (or as my professor might put it - after I've lived in a self-stretching mode on behalf of others), I snap back as a rubber band when there is misinterpretation, maltreatment or rumors that are just not true. It takes a long time for me to get to the "snap back" place. In fact, in this instance, it's taken years.
Yet this morning, I snapped. Tenderness gone. Turning the other cheek, beyond me. The need to be direct and clear without sweetness overcame my usual desire to see all sides, to give the benefit of the doubt. I lost the thread of kindness.
It occurred to me as I reread what I wrote this morning that people who are under long periods of duress (particularly racial or gender based discrimination) must snap-back periodically too. They must get to their limits and we on the other side, the side that doesn't feel the duress, call them back to gentler attitudes or criticize them for stridency, missing the point - they've been pushed to the brink.
I'm sure I've been the pusher in a few of my relationships of late and I'm trying to imagine what I might have done/could do differently. I'm trying to see their "snap-backs" as the result of their own pain and duress. Harder to do when I'm blinded by my own.
I got a taste of the "snap-back" feeling this morning - the "fed-up feeling" that motivates an abandonment of goodwill and charitable spirits. I don't like myself that way. I'm still trying to piece together how to get to the other side, where when wronged you really do turn the other cheek and can go on. I'm trying to balance that against futility, healthy boundaries and holding people accountable.
Right now I admit I don't know what the right mix is. I do know that today, I added another layer of hurt. I don't like that. I don't like to cause pain. This morning, I didn't like to receive it.
I think a theology of psychology is needed -- how do we live our theology in the midst of a pyschologically driven culture? What is a health boundary if we are using Jesus's admonitions to guide us into other-centered living? What does it look like to be gentle, tender, loving when also balancing unhealthy group dynamics and relationships?
Today I don't know...