August 7, 2012

Flawed and Graced

Filed under: Lectionary — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 1:42 pm

Anyone who knows me well will tell you—I’m not a very nice person. I don’t generally enjoy people. I tend to speak bluntly. (I’m often reminded, “That was a thought that could have stayed in your head, Mom.”) When conflict annoys me, my default is passive-aggressive behavior. I’m impatient. A standard feature of meeting preparation for me is a total-introvert meltdown—how did I get myself into this and when will it be over?

But look—right there in the middle of this week’s reading from Ephesians, verse 30—“…the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal…” The chrism of my baptism wraps up all of my humanity into one holistic parcel like a big blob of sealing wax.

For me, this particular portion of grace has been quite freeing. Knowing that I am loved and accepted in all my human failings has given me space to grow and enabled me to become a better person. I have learned to listen. I have developed the discipline of generous assumptions. I can laugh at long-held grudges and roll my eyes at dysfunctions that aren’t going to change.

Along the way I have discovered an element of witness in being human. Twenty years ago my now BFF said, “I didn’t like Christians until I met you.” Since then she has journeyed from atheism to agnosticism, to personal spirituality, and into her own ministry as youth leader for her Universalist Unitarian community. She and I continue to uphold each other as flawed works in progress, encouraging one another in spiritual growth and human venting.

Vocation has taught me that candor is too often neglected in parish life. A well-placed honest observation or question can open up a conversation that has needed to happen, but has never been given its moment. (As they say on the playground, “It’s OK to say it, but you don’t have to be mean about it.”) Likewise, the safety of confidential candor can provide the release we sometimes need to remain presence in difficult situations.

Most of all, embracing life as a baptized, chrismated, imperfect being has taught me to pray:

O Tree of Calvary, send your roots deep into my soul. Gather together my frailties—my soiled heart, my sandy instability and my muddy desires—and entwine them with the strong roots of your arboreal love. Amen[i]

[i] Cited in Daily Prayer for All Seasons, Final Draft, January 2011, as appearing in From Shore to Share: Liturgies, Litanies, and Prayers from around the World, Kate Wyles, ed. (London: SPCK, 2003), p.79.


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