I had the fortunate opportunity this past week to attend a religious retreat. The retreat was held at the DaySpring Conference Center, about an hour south of Tampa, and it was for youth ministers in the Archdiocese of St. Petersburg.
For those of you who may not be aware, a retreat is what the name suggests. It is a get away from everything to focus on God and spirituality. I actually thought it would be more of a working retreat. I expected to do workshop activities and learn how to be a better youth minister. Instead, it was 100% about self renewal in Christ, and it was an amazingly rewarding experience.
I began writing this blog entry about 10 hours ago. As things would have it, I stepped away from the keyboard to take my kids to the pool and cook them dinner on my grill. 80 degree weather, clear skies, the smell of burgers and hot dogs in the air, and smiles from ear to ear on the faces of my kids. Sure beats tapping away at a series of letters on a laptop.
So I pick up this entry after having watched the movie ‘Troy’ on HBO. I was hoping and planning to write something spiritual and profound about my experience on retreat, but I will save that for another entry. Instead, I am drawn to one of the subplots of the movie. I have to explain that I was drawn into watching the movie because that’s what I do at one in the morning. I channel surf until I find something that makes me say, “Ooh. Cool!” So the site of Brad Pitt leaping in the air as drives a sword in the neck of a behemoth of a man made me sit up and say, “Yeah, I’ll watch this.”
If you’ve seen the movie then I won’t bother with a recap. If you haven’t, then check your local listings. But the part of the movie to which I am referring is when Achilles kills Hector and drags his dead body for all the Trojans to see. Hector’s father, Priam, finds his way alone to Achilles and begs for the return of his dead son’s body. He begins his tear-filled pleas by kissing Achilles’ hands.
Still filled with the Holy Spirit, I got to thinking of what it would take to do such an act. To kiss the hands that took the life of your child, or spouse, or loved one so precious to you that their loss shatters your world and steals the air from your lungs. What type of restrain and control would need to exist in order to look this person in the eye and then beg of them?
We all know the cliché of turning the other cheek and granting forgiveness to your worst enemy. But I ask myself, “Could I forgive the person who harmed or killed someone close to me?” To be honest, I can’t even type the sentence I wanted to type; for the mere idea of something happening to my kids makes my body stop functioning. It’s unfathomable. It’s incomprehensible to me. How can anyone show mercy in a situation like that?
The irony of the question is that Achilles kills Hector out of fierce revenge for Hector killing Patroclus, Achilles’ cousin. And fierce revenge, not forgiveness nor mercy, would be my choice as well. I pray that I never come close to dealing with such a nightmare, but a nightmare beyond all imagination is what I would unleash on anyone who harms my beloveds. I know there is nothing Christian about these words, but that is the battle we must face every day. How do we reconcile our human hearts, full of emotions that range from love to hate, with a calling to live a good life and approach all things, even tragedy, with love?
It’s not for me to determine, let alone in a blog entry. All I can say is that I thank God for my family, specifically my children, and I pray every day that God keeps them safe and secure. But should God’s will have something different in store, then I pray that God have mercy on the offender. I know I would not.