From the morning prayer in my Book of Common Prayer today:
A passage from Forgotten Among the Lilies by Ronald Rolheiser: ” If the Catholicism that I was raised in had a fault, and it did, it was precisely that it did not allow for mistakes. It demanded that you get it right the first time. There was supposed to be no need for a second chance. If you made a mistake, you lived with it and, like the rich young man, were doomed to be sad, at least for the rest of your life. A serious mistake was a permanent stigmatization, a mark that you wore like Cain. I have seen that mark on all kinds of people: divorcees, ex-priests, ex-religious, people who have had abortions, married people who have had affairs, people who have had children outside of marriage, parents who have made serious mistakes with their children, and countless others who have made serious mistakes. There is too little around to help them.
We need a theology of brokenness. We need a theology which teaches us that even though we cannot unscramble an egg, God’s grace lets us live happily and with renewed innocence far beyond any egg we may have scrambled.
We need a theology that teaches us that God does not just give us one chance, but that every time we close a door, he opens another one for us.”
It’s not about Catholicism; not at all. There are many cultural and social structures that don’t allow for mistakes.
It’s about this tremendous need for grace. Over and over, I am reminded of our desperate need for it. And yet it’s so hard to give, sometimes. And it’s sometimes even harder to accept.
This, today, reminds me of my calling. Reminds me of who I am.
Had a theology of brokenness not been overwhelmingly and undeniably offered to me, I could not stand. And not in the easy pie-in-the-sky, “Jesus has always loved me!” sort of way. Not in the stick-your-head-in-the-sand and coast on a simple humanistic peace-and-love-for-all philosophy. But in this: that I have screwed up, time and time again. I have made mistakes, big and small. I have pushed against commandments, Biblical and moral – and pushed hard enough to break them. In ancient history (my own) and more recent (like me, last week), I have said and done things that have hurt people. I have scrambled enough eggs, my own and others’, to feed the nations.
And in this: I am offered another chance. Not only by flesh and blood people who tenderly, tearfully offer grace and forgiveness – but by the one who is holy, righteous, massively unfathomable – beyond any understanding I might have. As far as the universe is, there is grace.
That is the violently insistent heartbeat of my faith: There is grace.
In the tripping and falling that we all claim as part of our climbing through life, a theology of brokenness lived out for ourselves and for those around us – well, that could change the world.
And there’s enough of it, for us and the whole human race.
Go show somebody some grace today.