“A Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumble–because the Christ-life is inside him, repairing him all the time, enabling him to repeat (in some degree) the kind of voluntary death which Christ Himself carried out.”C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
As a teenager I often had trouble falling asleep and it just so happened that one of the channels the TV in my room could receive very clearly was EWTN – the Eternal Word Television Network. There was a Nun – Mother Angelica – who had a Tuesday night talk show (that they would often show again late at night, when I would catch it) where she would choose a topic of faith to reflect on. Sometimes she would just flip open her trusty 1996 edition Jerusalem Bible and talk about whatever scripture she landed on.
I loved to listen to her messages. The soothing cadence of her speech reminded me a lot of my Grandmom, which I am sure had a lot to do with it. But I also loved the way she would teach about the Gospel. To hear her tell the stories of Jesus’s life you would think she was right there with them; when she spoke of the disciples they sounded real; like well meaning but deeply flawed humans who tried and failed – in the very presence of Christ – over and over.
And yet, they go on to build the church. To tell the stories. To be living witnesses to His miracles and His love. To die even for what it meant to be and do those things.
I think these days we do a pretty decent job of at least talking the talk that “perfection” isn’t possible. We say that we are giving ourselves grace, or being gentle with ourselves. We take stock of our lives and do everything we can to sort out what is good for us and what is harmful, hopefully giving our best selves their best shot.
But what if, after all of that, the behavior that we brought to a relationship or a circumstance, is far less than “perfect”?
What if it isn’t even acceptable?
The picture that I chose today was actually the 3rd in a series that I took back in October to send to Willis; we were still very much building our routines for distance learning in those weeks. Danny was having a difficult day (understatement) and we were struggling to get through a single class without something catastrophic happening, requiring us to log off.
The post-its came at different times in the day, gently placed on his book shelf next to where I sit to support him. It isn’t that unusual for Danny to write us notes instead of verbalizing when he is coming down from a crisis, so when the first note appeared I took it as a sign that his clouds were parting and that we were going to start having a productive day.
After the second melt down, I came back to the room to find another note: “I’m sorry, again.”
And the third: “and also please forgive me.”
And while I absolutely cherished his apologies, and while I absolutely followed through on the consequences for the destructive behaviors that he was exhibiting, there was not a single moment in any part of that day that I didn’t love that child with every fiber in my being. There was no shame in asking for forgiveness again; he was sorry again. It isn’t a well that can run dry.
There is Grace available for him and there is Grace available for you. And while asking for forgiveness does not always immediately wipe the slate clean in your life or free you from the consequences of your actions, it is the only first step to true healing.
We are real, well meaning but deeply flawed humans. There is a lot that can and will go wrong.