My mother, God bless her, has become so accustomed to the behavior of a particular family member that she is now oblivious to it. She looks forward to our Sunday get-togethers with family and she cooks until the cows come home. Yesterday she wanted to make a special dinner for her youngest grandchild, and when we arrived her table was decorated with a beautiful vase of pink carnations and baby's breath. Rebecca was thrilled, especially when she saw the cake her grandmother baked for her, a chocolate confection covered in a cream-cheese icing. Mom tried to replicate the cake that Rebecca had asked for every year until the bakery that made it suddenly closed.
Also "decorating" the table was a sibling who barely acknowledged our presence when we arrived. As she usually is when she comes to dinner at Mom's, she remained glued to her cell phone. I have no idea if she was on Facebook or some other website, but she would occasionally squeal about some news she just read and then go back to exercising her thumbs. When the meal was served and we paused to say grace, she did not look up from her phone. I noticed she did not even bother making the sign of the cross. Her only words to me during the entire meal were words of admonition when I raised my voice so my father could hear what I was saying as well as a few insulting remarks about my parenting skills. Apparently, the sight of me and the sound of my voice were more than she could bear yesterday, for reasons known only to her, and I couldn't wait to be out of her presence. I helped my mother clear the table and then I sat inside, stewing, until it was time for dessert. God forgive me for saying this, but I felt like I was sitting across from a demon who was trying to scratch his way into my soul.
It always seems to happen that after a very holy and solemn event, in this case the opening of Forty Hours after the TLM yesterday, I'm blindsided by someone intent on disrupting my inner peace. More often than not, it's my sister. I thought of the Lord's words, that we should not offer Him a gift if we have a dispute with our brother or sister but rather wait until we have made amends and then offer the gift. It also got me to wondering this: When does turning the other cheek cease to be an admirable thing and become enabling of bad behavior?
In the old days, I would take so much of my sister's jabs and then let her have it. I've even reverted to the old behavior on occasion when sorely provoked, which is just what she wants. That gives her the opportunity to remind me of how "Christian" my behavior is. I have thought of avoiding these dinners so long as she insists on joining us, but I would be punishing my parents, so I continue to be subjected to this. It is so difficult to pray for a person like this, even though we are related by flesh and blood. Afterward, it's even harder to let go of what happened. I figure that when I no longer feel any insult or injury by her behavior, I will have gotten over myself. As you know, this is my prayer for myself for Lent - Lord, please help me get over myself.
I'm always saddened to hear of relatives who do not speak to each other, especially siblings. I do not condone this behavior but I have to say that after yesterday, I understand the temptation to go this route. I won't, but it takes all I have to continue to pray for her conversion. On the other hand, when my husband and I were talking about her blatant disgust with me, it occurred to me that I have what Mary Gordon might refer to as "an unfair advantage". Many is the time I wish there was a way of allowing my sister to see for herself how objectionable her behavior is. Sometimes, as angry as she makes me, it is nothing compared to my sadness that she can be so pathetic in her dislike of me. I get no pleasure in the stark reality that she is not on a path to Heaven right now, not because of her treatment of me but because of her complete disregard for her faith.
In my post about overcoming our blindness to sin, Maria asked me about praying for people who insist on remaining in darkness. That is most important thing I can do, and yet it is so hard. There may not be anything harder than to pray for a person who loathes you and insists on ridiculing you. I lack the strength to do this on my own, so I have to ask God to lend me some of His.
What good is it if I light my own path and leave those behind me in darkness?
Kneeling before the Monstrance this evening before the service began, I realized that no matter how much progress I think I have made, it takes an unpleasant event like yesterday to help me see how very far I have to go yet. God's way perhaps of cutting me down to size?
Perhaps you have had a similar experience with someone in your family or circle of friends and you have some counsel you can offer. I think I should definitely seek some spiritual direction from a priest about this as well.
Thanks and God Bless you.