"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

To Forgive: Reprove, Restore, Reclaim


Tree of Forgiveness
by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones

Last week, Gerry and I were lucky enough to view this painting
at The Lady Lever Art Gallery
in Port Sunlight, Merseyside, England

Before we proceed, allow me to express my dismay at the preponderance of exclusionary masculine pronouns to be encountered in this post: "restored to himself" ~ "he who will not be taught" ~ "wholly His" ~ "He has forgiven." In scripture, literature, female authors, male authors: How long, O Lord? Naturally, I find the omnipresence of gender - bound sentence structure depressing and distressing; yet, I like all of the following passages and their common theme that forgiveness requires searching your own soul and using your thinking cap:

"In short, I began to think, and to think indeed is one real advance from hell to heaven. All that hardened state and temper of soul, which I said so much of before, is but a deprivation of thought; he that is restored to his thinking, is restored to himself." ~ Daniel Defoe, from his novel Moll Flanders

"Impatient is he who will not be taught or reproved of his sin, and by strife wars against truth wittingly, and defends his folly."
~ Chaucer

"When He talks of their losing their selves, He means only abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts . . . that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever."
~ C. S. Lewis, from The Screwtape Letters

"He has forgiven me not just a great deal, but everything."
~ St. Therese of Lisieux

My friend Joni added this insight on forgiveness . . .

"That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself,
not counting their trespasses against them,
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
~ 2 Corinthians 5:19:

. . . with her own concluding comment: So if God's no longer counting why are we?

Good question, Joni!

One of my favorites:
"As far as the east is from the west, so far
are our transgressions removed from us.
~ Psalms 103: 12

It took me awhile to notice that our transgressions are removed not only from the mind of God -- they are also removed from us! We no longer have to align ourselves with every old mistake we ever made. As Joni points out, "If God is not looking backwards, why are we?"


On both the use of paternalistic pronouns and the topic of forgiveness, I am reminded of the musical, Children of Eden written in the late 1980s by Stephen Schwartz. Schwartz takes some interesting and creative liberties with the Book of Genesis, but, alas, he totally forgot to eliminate the patriarchal sexism. Now, that's what I would have done! Instead, we have the same - old same - old God as grand-dad, with no grand-mom in sight; and the relentless chant of "Father, Father, Father."

Even so, some of the lyrics are quite beautiful:

Children of Eden
Like this brief day
My light is nearly gone
But through the night
My children you will go on
You will know heartache
Prayers that don't work
And times of bitter circumstances
But I still believe in second chances

Children of Eden
Where have we left you
Born to uncertainty
Destined for pain
Sins of your parents
Haunt you and test you
This your inheritance
Fire and rain

Children of Eden
Try not to blame us
We were just human
To error prone

Children of Eden will you reclaim us
You and your children to come
Someday you'll come home

Children of Eden
Where is our garden
Where is the innocence
We can't reclaim
Once eyes are opened
Must those eyes harden
Lost in the wilderness
Must we remain . . . you will reclaim us . . .

Garden of Eden by He Qi
[artist's bio / previous post]

In the Beginning
This step is one again our first
We set our feet upon a virgin land
We hold the promise of the earth
In our hands

No flood from heaven comes again
No deluge will destroy and purify
We hold the fate of man and men
In our hands

Now at this dawn so green and glad
We pray that we may long remember
How lovely was the world we had
In the beginning

Of all the gifts we have received
One is most precious and most terrible
The will of each of us is free
It's in our hands . . .

Children of Eden
Grant us your pardon
All that we leave to you
is the unknown

Children of Eden
Seek for your garden
You and your children to come
Some day to come home

[emphasis added]

*As wise Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. observes it in Slaughterhouse Five: "We just can't seem to help feeling so entitled to free will, but what does that really mean?"

Next Fortnightly Post
Tuesday, May 28th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading


  1. I continue to puzzle over Schwartz's failure to mend the gender bias in the Genesis story, when he was clearly taking so many other liberties and could have done so with a mere stroke of the pen. What about his mother, wife, daughter? Did he not have the vision to look around and see that something is wrong with the world -- as in hey, what's wrong with this picture? Apparently, not. I'm surprised that none of the women in his life pointed out to him the flaws in his musical. Or does he studiously ignore all the progressive women in his profession, surrounding himself with only the old-fashioned subservient type? Well, he wouldn't be the first.

    Gender equity shouldn't be an issue that only a female playwright / songwriter can address. The fact is there should be something in it for Schwartz to make the world more fair rather than less so, to be a feminist, to try to redress the inequity of the ages. Rather than just smugly congratulating himself on being a lucky male, he could consciously decide to make himself part of the solution. I guess I always assumed that any daughter of mine would be a feminist; instead I was give the challenge of raising feminist sons. Mothers of sons only should not think that they've got it easy; in fact, they've got their work cut out for them, and they owe it to themselves to do that work.

    That's what I tried to convey to my sons -- that it's not just for women to solve the problems of inequality -- it's for everybody, it's for them. And they should do it not only for all the mothers, girlfriends, wives, daughters, and sisters, but also for themselves -- because it will make the insides of their heads a happier place, because it will make the world a better place for all. As in "liberty and justice for ALL."


  2. More from Vonnegut:

    "You sound to me as though you don't believe in free will," said Billy Pilgrim.

    "If I hadn’t spent so much time studying Earthlings," said the Tralfamadorian, "I wouldn’t have any idea what was meant by 'free will.' I've visited thirty-one inhabited planets in the universe, and I have studied reports on one hundred more. Only on Earth is there any talk of free will."

    ~from _Slaughterhouse Five_ (Chap 5, p 86)