How many ways?

a statue of a person holding a cross in front of Hill of Crosses

She didn’t mean to say it. A slip of the tongue she thought, but she knew she could not pull back the words, could not explain away those hurtful words. Deep inside she knew there was a part of her believing what she said, maybe all of her really meant it. But immediately, she knew she had made a mistake. No thought had contemplated the consequences of her outburst because she only had in mind her want. Never did it occur to her the value of the person to whom she spoke. To her, this person was just a means.

But in this moment, the weight of her life began closing in. She began to realize her belief she had been right in her thinking justified the cause she followed.  Because the end was nobler than the ruthlessness it took to achieve it, the path of which she was so sure, all now seemed a mistake, a big, colossal mistake. She could barely handle the grief, the guttural emptiness within.

She tried to reason with herself. After all, she attended church, prayed for her causes, for her ideal of what God ought to do. She had been civic minded, said all the right things, wrote and spoke on behalf of the cause. She was admired for her doggedness. No one challenged her. No one wanted to. No one wanted to be cast aside, so they agreed with her. And this propelled her.

But the court of her conscience opened and deep down, where honesty prevails but strives to surface, she knew her wrong. Layers of self-deceit and cravings for image and approval suppressed this honesty. She knew when sitting in the church pew, she had pointed to those sitting beside her and in front and back of her as hypocrites instead of looking to the One above her. Her hollow hallelujahs would sing but no sound came forth. She believed the Bible but never read it.

Around town, she heard the murmurings of disagreement but dismissed them. She saw the pitfalls of her cause but decided to ignore them. The cause was too important. She believed the crowd to be with her, to be true, to be used. And now, she thought maybe there could have been another way, should have been another way. Strident to a fault, her belief blinded her. The slip of her words told her so.

No longer were her thoughts turned outward. Slowly, she began to look inward and saw her emptiness. She cried. How could she have been so wrong trying to be so right? She thought, “How many ways have I crucified Jesus? As many as I have breathed.”

In her simple slip, her character and heart had been exposed as less than virtuous, less than Christian. Her image shattered in silence.

Moral: May we always be the one who loves, forgives, atones, lives the redeemed life, seeks and extends mercy, attends to the poor, loves God more than want, more than our cause, our self-righteousness.

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