10-11-16 - From the Shadows

Interpreting parables can be similar to interpreting dreams – on some level, we can find ourselves in all the characters, and meaning shifts according to who we identify with most. So, in this week's parable, are you the widow, or the judge?

When we feel we’re on the wrong side of justice, powerless, unheard, victims of a system we can’t control – we identify with this widow. It’s hard to get more powerless than widows in Jesus’ day – they were at the mercy of relatives or charity. What situations in your life make you feel powerless? We all have some area in which we don’t get what we want or need, and we get tired of asking. It’s okay to feel a righteous anger over injustice – and it’s okay to be angry at God.

Or do you identify with this judge, as unsavory a character as he may be? Are you tired of people haranguing you to fix everything? Maybe you think this widow ought to take more responsibility for her life. Maybe (the story doesn’t tell us…) the opponent has a good case, and ruling in favor of the widow is not the most just thing, but she’s worn you down.

In many situations we are sitting in the power seat, denying other people resources or justice or simply a hearing. When we hoard assets or exert socio-economic privilege, we’re like that judge. When we fail to honor the humanity in another person, no matter how annoying or destructive we may find them, we’re sitting on that bench.

Neither of these characters seem very appealing to me. Perhaps Carl Jung would say they represent our “shadow” sides. Those feelings are part of us, and the more we’re able to bring them into the light, the better we can be free of them. And freedom is our goal in the spiritual life.

So… let’s name some things we feel helpless about, angry at, sick of. Tell God how you feel. God doesn’t want us to be polite – God wants us to be real. If these are things you often pray about, examine that. Is there another angle from which to look at them? Action you could take? Anyone else who might join you in that prayer?

Then let's switch places and assume the judgment seat. Who is asking you for justice or mercy – or your time? Who don’t you want to be bothered with? What resources and power do you have that you might exercise on someone else’s behalf? If you feel forgiveness is needed, ask for that. Even more, ask God to show you God’s solutions for those people so you can join God in helping them.

This is hard work, to look at ourselves clearly. But the light we shine into our shadows is the love of God in Christ, a fierce love that makes us truer than we knew we could be.

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