The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.
Someone mentioned that book recently. I really like Shel Silverstein’s books and this was no exception. I felt a little superior to those in the room who hadn’t read it. I am a renaissance man. They unfolded it with several different interpretations: the boy was selfish and a taker, the tree an enabler, the boy was direct and could ask for what he wanted, the tree freely gave in sacrificial love. There were many others, but I was horrified and stopped paying attention. For some reason, my relationship with God kept nagging in my brain. Was I in a relationship or was I simply taking and expecting? Was I allowing God to relate to me in the moment or was I denying Him when things didn’t go my way?
In my journey, I have adopted the strategy of not merely apologizing or asking forgiveness, but making amends. I strive to mend the relationship by asking what it is that I need to do to make it right, or to make the person feel whole or in the direction of whole.
Quick side note: If you decide to do this, you will need to explain what you are doing almost every time you do it. I’ve had people ask me to please just say I am sorry.
I have been selfish with God. After my divorce, I was at a real low spot for some time. Our friends felt a need to choose sides, and I lost most of them. My pastors stopped responding to emails. Many of my patients were told elaborate and, most times, embellished stories about me and turned away in public settings. Her family reprimanded me and then blocked me on phones and email. My kids were told horrible things about me and told to call me by my first name rather than Dad. Not a single person asked me my side of the story. I had lost my career and my practice as well. I would apply for 500+ jobs in the next 2 years. I worked cleaning golf carts and driving the tractor to pick up golf balls. (That was really pretty fun.) I drove a school bus. I got 2 advanced online degrees. I bought a house by cashing in some of my retirement money and crossed my fingers that a job would come along. I begged God to help me find work and moaned about Him not getting me a job. I didn’t recognize the amazing gift I was being given. I was being granted a life vacation while I got my heart and head organized. I didn’t see it or take advantage of it the way some people would. I spent time growing and learning, but never went to the alps, finished my book, or created wonderous works of art.
I made new friends and meet new people. The friends I had stood by me, shoulder to shoulder. I also had the opportunity to see who I was independently. I got an opportunity to meet and greet myself. I grew to like me again. I was given the chance to see what true friendship is and true forgiveness could look like. I was held accountable, and loved. I lamented the loss of people I called friends and family. I felt isolated and alone. I still ache at the separation and alienation from my kids. I forgot the God had made sure I wasn’t alone. I had friends and family that supported me, that held me, that held me up.
I realized the other day, while riding my “temple bike”, that I have been blaming God for His followers. I have been upset that Christians gossiped about me, judged and condemned me, ignored me, would not forgive me, moved to the other side of the road as they passed by me. I could not understand why all this was happening to me. I was hurt, lost, scared, and felt alone. I was angry at God. The Truth is that I made the choices that led to my downfall and isolation. The Truth is that despite my actions, God stood shoulder to shoulder with me. He allowed me to breath and regroup. He allowed me to understand myself and to grow. He allowed me to open my heart and mind to live more fully into who He sees me as. The Truth is that God didn’t gossip, judge, condemn, ignore, or pass me by. God forgave me, even before I did it.
“God, I have been selfish, dishonest, and insincere. How do I make it right?”
“I already did.”