by Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz
January 1, 2011
It was still dark when I got up this morning to sit on the couch with the Christmas tree lit and the water fountain Jim bought me for Christmas (best gift ever) babbling like a brook on the shelf, sipping a cup of tea to try and clear my head of this miserable cold. I tried to imagine myself by the ocean as I listened to the water (ok, that was a stretch but worth a try), and thinking about how I wanted to start the new year. I glanced around the house that looks well lived-in with our 3 almost-adult children home and the dozens of friends who have been in and out over the past two weeks and here’s what popped into my head: I’d like to start the new year with a clean house and a pure heart. I’m not sure either of them will be that easy to achieve at the moment but that’s what came to me.
Then I picked up the devotional book Seasoned with Peace we received from our Exec. Director and the title for January 1 was “A year with less fear”. I think that might be a way to work at the pure heart (the clean house will have to wait). As I think not only about my own life but also about the work I do in crime and justice…I recognize the feeling of fear instantly and how easy it is to feel paralyzed, exhausted and sapped of all energy by it. According to Yoda from Star Wars (yes, I love those movies) “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”
One example of the fear that comes to mind is a current dialogue case where the victim wants to meet with the person (a relative) who murdered her loved one. There have been many stumbling blocks along the way, primarily by the legal system and I find myself continuing to seek ways to use them as stepping stones. Sometimes it works and sometimes I stumble over them. The question I find myself asking is “what are they afraid of?” The answers come quickly. Fear of something going wrong when these two people face one another. Fear that someone will be further harmed by this process…not necessarily physically but emotionally/mentally. Fear that the system set up to keep these two people apart (often for good reason) is being threatened. Fear of the loss of control. The list goes on.
The reality in this case is that after meeting a number of times with both the victim and offender I have no doubt they are both entering this process as way to come to grips with the hardness of their heart, as a way to cleanse themselves – to seek a pure heart. Not every person comes to dialogue with the same motivation, it’s whatever they need at that time. But in this case they simply want to let go of the fear that has kept them apart for over 20 years so that they can move forward.
I admire the courage the strength it has taken them to get to this point in their journey. It makes me think about the fear I hold onto that keeps me bound. Fear of the unknown, fear of another person’s motivation, fear of not being heard and understood. Fear of those who annoy and frustrate me. This list could go on as well.May this year start for me with the recognition that fear is something I need to let go of in order to develop that pure heart. And, about that clean house…well, the year is still young!