Sunday, March 24, 2019

Are You Good Enough?


Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in. 
~ Leonard Cohen




Life was a meritocracy. You earned good grades in class, gold stars in Sunday school. God was a Santa in the sky bestowing gifts upon nice boys and girls, or either bags of switches and lumps of coal to the naughty children.

Speaking of switches, in my mother’s generation corporeal punishment was a must, sparing the rod a mortal sin. She chased me around the kitchen table until she caught me, and as the switch cut into my legs I’d yell, “You don’t love me!” And she’d say, “I love you when you’re good.”

She confiscated my older brothers’ Lash LaRue bullwhip and used it on them. But when I came along I had the good sense to hide it forever. If she didn’t have time to wait on us to go outside and fetch our own switch she’d grab the nearest thing on hand: the fly swatter. When we were adults my brother said, “That fly swatter really helped my self-esteem.” 

When all of life is governed by systems of punishment and reward that’s all you know. The gold stars in Sunday school would some glad morning translate into the starry crown you’d earn upon entry through the pearly gates…

 If you could only be good enough.

I tried. I tried and tried and tried again. Two steps forward. Three backward. I spent my life trying to please and appease God. What do I need to do to earn his favor? There must be something more I can do to satisfy his taste for perfection. Where do I sign up to give my body to be burned?

Don’t Change. Wait, what? Don’t Change?

I won’t tell you my life story. Anthony de Mello already told it in his vignette, “Don’t Change” from Song of the Bird.

“I was a neurotic for years. Anxious, depressed, selfish. And everyone kept telling me to change. And I resented them, and agreed with them, and wanted to change, but simply couldn’t, no matter how I tried. What hurt the most was that, like the others, my closest friend kept urging me to change. So I felt powerless and trapped.

One day he said “Don’t change. I love you as you are.” Those words were music to my ears: “Don’t change. Don’t change. Don’t change... love you as you are.” I relaxed. I came alive. And, suddenly, I changed! Now I know that I couldn’t really change till I found someone to love me whether I changed or not. Is this how you love me, God?”

Yes it is. Absolutely. When the Good News sank from my hard head into my broken heart I got the unconditional-love memo, just as the prophets, poets, and apostles got it. The still small voice inside saying: “What part of ‘Just as I Am’ and ‘Love Lifted Me’ did you not understand?”

If you’ve managed to successfully change on your own, congratulations. But if you’re sick of the old stale wilderness manna, and if you’ve worn out the cartilage in your knees crawling through the wasteland in sackcloth and ashes, you can trade in those filthy rags and get a life.

Get off your worn-out knees and look up and behold the Sabbath Rest sign. And if you keep on down that road you’ll find the Perfect Offering and peace of mind. You’ll enter our Home, mine and Emily’s. Here you don’t have to be fancy. Just bring your ragamuffin self on in. No offerings needed. Just show up with your empty soul and your beggar bowl.

Come with me this morning
to the church within our hearts,
where the bells are always ringing,
and the preacher whose name
is Love — shall intercede for us!
 ~ Emily Dickinson

What do your struggles to be good enough look like?

2 comments:

  1. Great post which makes one think deeply!

    My answer to your question in the title is No, I'm not good enough. The answer to your question ending your post is that my struggles have almost stopped after getting very ill and a miraculous survival. I realized then, that it's the various struggles that make one ill.
    However,after that, I became more aware of the greatness of God and the nothingness of human beings.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. DUTA, without struggles it would be impossible to see spiritual progress. It appears, too, that your illness and overcoming spirit have shaped you into the insightful and wise person you are today, one who treasures every moment on earth and shares the beauty you see around you with others.

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