I awoke this morning acutely aware of my physical frailties and deep personal imperfections. My first and familiar reaction was disappointment. Then an idea came to me, harvested from a little crop of patience I’ve been cultivating, and I remembered that this frail, imperfect me is in fact the perfect offering!
This is all I have – no, this is exactly what I have – to work with and walk with, to shepherd and nurture, to extend and challenge, to love and share with the world.
This is the rough, half-finished work of human hands which today I am laying on life’s altar in the shy but earnest hope that it will be lovingly received, graciously blessed, then joyfully returned to me as a man more truly and authentically alive.
My old self-critical instincts recoil from the shabby me I have awoken to, this living embodiment of so many missed opportunities, so many poor decisions, so many regrettable and damaging mistakes, so many careless injuries and woundings.
But today a newer, wiser and more compassionate instinct is gently reminding me that it is futile to hope for a better past, and that excavating my history in search of a better me is a quest with very little promise. The moving finger has written, and there is no going back.
This is both a tough truth and a great blessing. A tough truth because it means I am utterly stuck with my irreversible and, at times, lamentable personal story. A great blessing because, happily, it leaves me with only two logical responses to a past not all of which I like and none of which I can change.
The first response is forgiveness – the endless, tireless, cheerfully patient, seventy-times-seven-fold forgiveness of every trespass, real or imagined, I’ve ever committed and every trespass, real or imagined, ever committed against me.
In poems, dreams and prayers, in moments of exquisite beauty and deep vulnerability, I have sometimes caught tiny glimpses of what it would be like to be totally forgiven and totally forgiving. It is the fullest possible reconciliation of myself with the world, with my life and with my own soul. I’ve had tastes of this and it is beyond beautiful! I hunger for more.
I think it’s a profoundly good first step for us simply to acknowledge our longing for a forgiven and forgiving life. And a great practice to regularly ponder and imagine it, even if only as a faint possibility. Then, as opportunities arise, to gradually release ourselves and others from the stale debts and impossible accountabilities to which our dogged judgements and past condemnations have crucified us.
The second response to a past not wanted is simply to say a deliberate and happy “yes” to life’s ever-present invitation to do the very best I can do now and to be the very best I can be now – in this moment, on this day, in the circumstances facing me, with the resources available to me
Given the lingering legacies of the past and the limitations of my skill and understanding in so many things, even my best “yes” will be predictably imperfect. But this imperfect best is the perfect offering. As my dear musician friend, Miten, writes: “If not me, who else can I be?” This is not a question of improvement. This is a question of whole-hearted engagement.
Today, in living out my “yes” to life’s invitation, I will be not only crafting the best possible present, but also laying the foundation for the best of all possible futures for myself and for those whom I touch here in my small but sacred corner of the world.