First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on November 17, 2021 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/is-seeking-forgiveness-your-cross
On a walk in my hometown away from the bustle of the city, I stepped out of my way to crunch a fallen leaf on the sidewalk. It was very satisfying. Earlier, I had eaten homemade roasted plum jam on peanut butter toast with decaf coffee. The colourful trees in the kitchen window became the backdrop for the birds flying. I savoured it as I did my morning fuel.
Prayer and the sacraments have become fuel for my interior life. If I try to do something on my own steam, I end up exhausted and frustrated. After participating in Mass, I am at peace for whatever comes the rest of the day. A day can need more patience, perseverance, and courage than the one before.
When I am in a season of illness from my chronic bipolar disorder, it is easy to cling to the idols of comfort and fear. I am training my will to choose the good, since my nature is so weak in turning to Jesus for anything I need. It is not always my first option. I can become bitter. My family can’t understand what it is like to hear voices or to live on a swing of emotion that can be hard to balance.
The Lord calls us to be like him by carrying our crosses. In the book Jesus the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Marcellino D’Ambrosio says Jesus takes upon himself, ‘the shame, humiliation and rejection.’ People living with a mental illness often feel this. I know I do.
I can have nightmares, poor sleep, frightening hallucinations, and obsessive intrusive thoughts. I give it all over to Jesus to transform. Often, I picture myself holding on to his neck and burying my head in his shoulders as he carries me to safety.
As Pope Francis says, ‘Unless we pick up our cross, we have no hope of salvation.’ Thank goodness we don’t carry it on our own strength only. Jesus takes the weight of our suffering – for he too went through it.
Our cross is lighter when we let go like the falling leaves and forgive the people we need to. When we let go, we make more space in our heart for love and compassion for ourselves and our loved ones. And it is like making room for new spring flowers. I need to forgive myself as much as others. When I make mistakes or sin, I remind myself that I am loved by God and have compassion on my actions. I make an act of contrition and set a time to go to confession when I can. Jesus wants us to be happy not glum about our sinful nature.
Someone said to me the most difficult aspect of living out the Our Father prayer is forgiving others. I agree. It takes a lot of effort to give forgiveness on those who have injured us.
I like the formula for forgiveness at the end of confession. It goes, ‘through the ministry of the Church, may God give you pardon and peace. And I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ That feeling of peace I experience helps me to get over the discomfort of baring my soul to Jesus through a priest.
After a recent confession I wanted to sing and dance in thanksgiving. Before I left, the priest said with the mercy and love God has shown you, show mercy and love to others too.
The freedom received in this sacrament is healing in mind, body and soul and I will keep going back to it.
It takes all kinds of skills along with the sacraments to help me flourish again. Art journaling, walking, and visiting friends are means to my mental health.
The quiet neighbourhood of my family home is bringing me contentment as I spend time here after a move. Enjoying walks to the pier and through the village I am rediscovering the beauty of my small town. With a pandemic and other stressors going on in my life, more moments of silence and a slower pace is what I need.
Sometimes carrying our cross looks like finding forgiveness in our hearts. It is a lifelong journey worthy of the peace we desire and need. ‘He set me free in the open; he rescued me because he loves me.’
Lisa Rumpel’s podcast, The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience , is available on popular streaming services.