One day, during the week before my mom passed away, we were all sitting at the table having dinner. At the end of the meal, a whole bunch of us got up to put dinner away. My mom was too weak and tired to help but she expressed that we were all doing so much and that she felt badly that she could not get up and join us. My brother responded with what I thought was the perfect answer. He said: “Mom, this just goes to show how many of us it takes to do what you have been doing alone your whole life”. So true. In the days leading up to my mom’s departure to heaven, it took so many of us to try to keep the house running semi-normally. As the days continued to pass, I could not help but think of my brother’s comment. It was so true and so fitting for the situation. Now that mom has passed away, I find myself thinking about this even more. I think about how despite her physical absence, we still benefit so much from all the work she has done for our home. It goes beyond saying that we have benefitted enormously from her raising us, but the little things have begun to stick out to me more in the last couple of days. I look at how she has lovingly decorated the house with pretty paintings and framed family pictures, how she has organized the medicine cabinet and how her kitchen is fully stocked with all the kitchen tools a family could ever need. It never occurred to me that even after her passing, we would continue to benefit from the household that she had put together and kept up for us.
Noticing these little details reminded me of a Proverb from the Bible that my mom loved to read. It’s the passage she read to me at my bridal shower. It is also the passage that my grandfather would often read to my grandmother every so often. The entire chapter is about the “virtuous woman”. It was so sweet when my grandfather would read it and then lovingly gaze at my grandmother and say to her “that’s you”. What a blessing it was to witness such love (you’ll understand what I mean after you read the passage below). Whenever I would come across this chapter I would always think about my grandparents, but this week as I looked around our family home I could not help but think of how fitting this chapter is for the legacy that mom has left behind:
An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.
(Proverbs 31:10-31 ESV)
So I don’t do a ton of movie reviews on this blog, but once in a while I feel compelled to share a movie with you. I recently saw “The Redemption of General Butt Naked” at the Atlantic Film Fest and I have to admit that it was the best documentaries that I have seen in a long time. It was also one of those movies that you really want to sit down and talk about after you walk out.
The film takes place during and after the Liberian civil war and tells the story of a brutal warlord (General Butt Naked) also named Joshua Milton Blahyi. At the beginning of the movie we get to know General Butt Naked as he then was: a mass murderer. However, the bulk of the film focuses on his subsequent conversion to Christianity. In fact, not only does he become a Christian but he actually becomes a Pastor. He feels redeemed by his newfound faith and decides to face his past by confronting his victims and asking for their forgiveness. He also sets up a sort of rehabilitation camp for the child soldiers who worked under him and killed people during the war under his command.
As a lawyer and an international affairs junkie the movie appealed to me on so many levels: so many issues of faith, justice, forgiveness and post-conflict national reconciliation were brought out. At one very powerful point in the movie, we see Blahyi on the stand in front of the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission. When asked how many deaths he is responsible for, Blahyi bows his head in shame and says “20,000”. The Christian part of me was amazed and inspired by how this man could do a total 180 and have the courage to seek forgiveness from his victims. The lawyer in me who craves for justice found it so upsetting for him to have ruined so many lives and expect to receive forgiveness. Finally, the international affairs junkie in me was watching the the process of truth and reconciliation unfolding and was fascinated by what I saw. Choosing reconciliation after such a terrible tragedy is often the only choice that these people have if they do not want to spiral into deeper conflict – but it doesn’t make the choice any easier.
I encourage you to see the movie. You may find it uncomfortable and unsettling at times, but I really think that these issues are worth thinking about. If you’ve seen the movie and have any thoughts, please do share – I’d love to engage!
One of my favourite activities from this summer has been Wednesday lunchtime yoga classes on Parliament Hill. This definitely needs to be added to the list of things that I will miss about Ottawa. Not only does it feel so awesome to be outside at lunchtime with a crowd of 500 odd people doing yoga on the grass (such a different feeling from a studio floor!), but the idea of being right in front of our nation’s parliament is so inspiring. I love being there because I feel like I am a part of something great. I also love that while we are taking part in our yoga class, others are on Parliament hill with placards protesting whatever the cause of that day might be. I have traveled to parts of the world where you could get arrested for just taking a walk in front of the country’s house of government, and as a result I have come to appreciate the freedoms in Canada that others may take for granted.
What I find most amazing though is that the very thing that allows our citizens to be so free is the very thing that restricts us: the rule of law. It is so interesting that, in the end, what creates order and freedom are rules. If you think about a country in which there are no rules or laws, you will quickly realize that what that country’s citizens have is the very opposite of freedom. This is a widely recognized principle in politics, and yet it seems that so many of us have such a hard time recognizing this idea in our personal lives.
For instance, when I tell people that my faith is an important part of my life, I often get comments along the line of “that’s nice, but I don’t believe in following so many rules”. I find this ironic, because I believe that it is those very rules that have given me freedom in my personal life. In the same way that citizens of democratic and law abiding countries have been able to experience greater freedom than those under lawless regimes, the limits and boundaries created by the faith that I ascribe to are also what have allowed me to feel free. I think that so many of us are resistant to a deeper faith that requires some sort of commitment to rules because we don’t want to limit ourselves in this way. I would argue, however, that that the key to our liberation and emancipation as individuals might actually reside in allowing ourselves to be open to the boundaries and rules created by a higher order.
How about you? Do you feel as though the rules and laws in your life have actually helped to liberate you in a strange sort of way?