(Greg and I enjoying Christmas at Rockefeller Plaza last week in New York City!)
Since the holidays came upon us, my poor lonely blog has been neglected. Truth be told, we've had so much company, grand-toddlers & activity that I've precious little time for a deep thought. Last week I enjoyed Christmas in New York City with Greg: a week full of adventure and discovery, walking and walking, which seemed to add balance to my life which is often, too often, lived in the thoughts in my head.
But this morning, I've finally had the chance to be still and listen to what my heart is learning and saying. The term "rise above" has taken my fancy of late. I think it started with, of all things, an episode of Grey's Anatomy. One of the main characters, an African American surgeon and strong mother figure on the show, is called upon to perform surgery on a hate-filled racist who has a swastika tattooed on his chest.
Before she touches knife to his skin, she pauses, prays, and asks God to help her "rise above." In other words, she asked for supernatural strength to use her gifts to heal rather than kill or wound or mar, even though the unconscious man she's operating on would have loved to have seen her dead simply for the color of her skin. "Rising above" is a level of living I am aspiring to, rather than the less thoughtful, less prayerful habit of reacting either in retribution or ruminating. When we choose to "rise" instead of "react" we are, after all, a little closer to heaven.
I've noticed, also, that the more emotionally balanced, secure in love, and busy being happy and helpful that I am, there's an improvement in my general generosity of heart and ability to extend grace or move on from a slight. In the movie Last Chance Harvey, the father, Dustin Hoffman is in a bad emotional place. He's made mistakes he's not yet dealt with, particularly as a father, and so his hurt is compounded when his daughter tells him that she's asked her stepfather (who has been there for her through the years), to walk her down the aisle. He slinks away as soon as he can from the painful situation and stumbles upon a straight-talking woman who befriends him and takes him just as he is.
Their like turns to love in a short time (as happens in the movies), and she accompanies him to his daughter's wedding reception. Buoyed by renewed hope and love in a newly blossoming relationship, Dustin is able to "rise above" his hurt, and to deliver a graceful, loving and grateful toast to his daughter, new son in law and even to the stepfather. Feeling joyful , along with realizing we are loved and accepted, is like helium to the heart; allowing us to "rise above" wounding people or painful circumstances with greater ease.
You see it in the classic Christmas Carol where somehow, Bob Crachit, a man poor in material things but rich in grace, rises above Scrooge's harsh and stingy ways. Bob, as it turns out, is what some would call "The Christ Figure" in this story. The person who sees the best in the rest, because he understands the "story behind the man he became" the way God knows the stories behind who we are and the sometimes shameful ways we behave. And loves us, still.
But most of all we see it in the story of God coming down to dwell among humanity, and then rising above our selfishness and blindsightedness to show us how to be more than we thought we could ever be. To show us how loved we are, what worth we have to the Father, and with that joy firmly inside we can give also give "Joy to the World." Jesus came to show us how to, in Don Miller's words, "live a better story" on earth. One where generosity of heart, gladness of soul, and forgiveness as a way of life. In short, he showed us how to rise above.
That's what I want for Christmas this year: less ruminating, less resentment, less reactivity... and many more experiences of Rising Above.
"Sometimes a light surprises a Christian when he sings;
it is the Lord who rises with healing in his wings."
(From an old hymn...)