It was an old friend’s saint’s day a week ago. It just so happened, oddly enough, to be the birthday of a few people I knew. It was one of the first times in a long while I took a birthday other than my own or that of a family member very seriously.
Honestly while I felt good about doing what I did, I just couldn’t look at the other person the same way anymore. Wonder if it was worth it. Or if it was, as an old friend used to call it, a moment worthy of a vodka shot.
I haven’t been posting at all this year so far, and it seems sad to begin on a note of regret. But I’m learning. Perhaps I may be wrong about regrets, or right. Or I just wouldn’t want to know. That’s the point of being surprised, even by myself.
The chief metaphor for human life is a mess, in my case.
A messy life is inevitably a result of the randomness and frailty of human existence, and even with periodic attempts to resolve the trouble by cleaning it up, any act of fixing falls short of the goal.
We often ask whether it takes God’s grace to help “clear the clutter,” if you will. I just came to the conclusion that we may have been looking at it from the wrong direction. We can only do so much with our efforts, but God’s gift is less an intervention–especially the kind that comes with triumphal choruses–than something that, for better or worse, is there, the kind of presence that throws us for a loop. And the mess remains, because it is part of our condition.
Yet it is from that displacement, that being thrown for a loop, where we understand that we aren’t in control, or we can’t just like that make things perfect, or dare I say it, better. Only God can make all things new, and it takes time. We can be overwhelmed both by the effort to change and by the immense grace it takes to help us along. So all that is required of us is the patient, slow work of living, slowly turning about like an ocean liner, correcting our path through the deep, dark sea.
(I am grateful to Emily Scott of St Lydia’s in Brooklyn, NY and Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE, for their reflections on New Years and conversion, respectively, that helped spur my own reflection.)