Advent 23: Consequences

It has not been a fun day at my house. The grandson and the Pepa locked horns. And a very stiff penalty was levied. The child didn’t think the adult was serious. The adult was unbending. There were many tears, but no true repentance. How do I know? The child blamed everyone else and continued to try and negotiate.

This did not help his case. In fact, I believe it only encouraged the adult to feel that he was right in his decision.

As long as we have been parents, foster parents, and grandparents, we have taught that actions have consequences.

And had to learn it, too. I tried to explain that to the child, but his heart was hurting to much to hear.

If you want to talk about harsh consequences, pull up a chair and listen to Adam and Eve’s story. It was just an apple. And they were unfairly tempted. At least that’s the way they saw it. One bite and not only were they booted out of the Garden, but then there was all that business about work and pain. Talk about harsh. I mean the rest of us have been paying for their poor choice through the ages.

But it’s not like we haven’t been warned. The Word is full of warning, the clearest being: you will reap what you sow.

Sometimes watching a child deal consequences makes it not much fun to be a mom or mema. It’s hard to not want to swoop in and rescue. It was very hard today.

In more ways than I want to try and explain, I have learned how choices result in consequences. But at the hardest point in facing those consequences, I found this scripture encouragement:
As for me, I look to the Lord for help.
I wait confidently for God to save me,
and my God will certainly hear me.
8 Do not gloat over me, my enemies!
For though I fall, I will rise again.
Though I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be my light.
9 I will be patient as the Lord punishes me,
for I have sinned against him.
But after that, he will take up my case
and give me justice for all I have suffered from my enemies.
The Lord will bring me into the light,
and I will see his righteousness.
10 Then my enemies will see that the Lord is on my side. (Micah 7:7-10, NLT)

Try as I might, I couldn’t find anything in the Word that spoke to God removing consequences. I wish, but no. Not there.

What is there is the promise that he will be with me…with you…all the way through.

In the darkest times, he will be there. He will be our light. He hears us. And he will bring us back to the light. And we will see his righteousness again.

And that’s good news to hold onto.

Coming out of the corner

Coming out of the corner

When you were a kid did you have to stand in the corner for punishment? I don’t think I did. I got my fair share of spankings. I was sent to my room. Only one time did I ever miss a meal. I was grounded as I got older and remember losing car priviledges, too. But I don’t remember my nose stuck in the corner. Oh, and there was no such thing as a time out chair in my house.

So as an adult, who is almost fifty-five, today feels very odd to me.  Recently,  I completed the final phase of punishment for a crime I committed ten years ago. I was not the kid who got in trouble. Never even got a speeding ticket. A friend made the statement that my worst crime was probably the way I cooked meatloaf.

Before I recieced my sentence, I completed a psychological evaluation to determine the likelihood of my reoffending. I was deemed low risk for reoffending. A PSI (pre-sentence investigation) was also done and it supported the Psych eval. So when it came time for my sentencing, the judge ordered me to spend sixty day in county jail, pay a $500 fine, and serve five years on community control (aka probation). Additionally, this crime automatically carried a ten year period of community registration which came with its own restrictions. This final component has been the mostndifficult for me. In many ways it has been like being in a prison without bars, because of the legal restrictions and the self-imposed shame. There wasn’t a single day in that ten years when I didn’t feel some level of judgement, real or imagined.

Today the bars are gone completely. All phases of that original sentence have been completed. It seemed very fitting that the sun should be shining the day it was all done, because I certainly feel like I had come out of a very dark place.

Putting someone in time out, whether it is in the corner or in prison, can provide the separated individual an opportunity to reflect and plan. My encounters with people seems to reveal to me that much more time goes into the planning than into reflection. The plan may be as simple as how not to get caught again or to exact revenge on those the “prisoner” blames for his or her incarceration. As for me, there was much  more reflection than planning. I have spent a lot of time, both in therapeutic counselling and journalistic reflection, thinking about what got me into the place where I made such devastating decisions and what I need to do to be sure I don’t ever repeat those mistakes.

So now I’ve crossed into a new place. In some ways life doesn’t look any different than it did a few days ago, but I can feel the difference.

Sunday morning in worship we sang the chorus, “Trading My Sorrows.” It starts out by saying!
“I’m trading my sorrows, I’m trading my shame. I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord…I’ll say yes Lord…” I get that. I have exhausted myself. Ten years of shame carrying can do that to a body.

I was trying to explain this feeling and the “change” to a friend.   Never having walked this path she just couldn’t wrap her brain around the difference. She has only known me for the past four years, so she didn’t know the pre-crime Tina. She couldn’t understand what difference a day would make. This isn’t the first time we had this conversation, either.  So once again, I tried using a current example to help her see.

There has been a job advertized online and in our local paper for a counselor position at the local drug and alcohol counselling center. There is licensure requirement listed. I have a counselling degree and experience. I could do the job. Last week I wouldn’t even considered applying. What makes the difference? Two things. First, I have completed my sentence. That means something. And through the process I re-established my credibility and I have the references to support that. They are the same references I would have had last week, but now it’s their word and my action. Even more than that, I have hope. And that is poweful a thing.

What I know for absolute certain is that I am out of the corner.  I sometimes wonder if the paint was wet in the corner where I stood.  Or perhaps someone stuck a “Corner” tag on my back when I was reflecting too deeply to notice.  I wonder this because there are some people who treat me as if I still belong in the corner.  Good therapy has helped me in handling this.  I just remind myself: they can’t put me back there unless I let them.  And all their fretting about my being “restored” is about them.  I don’t have to try and carry their stuff–I have enough of a load of my own to deal with thank you very much!

So I’m going to kick around and enjoy a little fresh air and freedom.  No more corners for me!

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