Confessing my imperfection
Lord it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way. Obviously, my sense of humor is perfect. Those of you who actually read what I write already know that my command of the English language is good and sometimes even gooder, but it’s not perfect. Of course we do have to acknowledge that neither English nor American is near perfect either. I’m six foot tall, pretty much average, but a few pounds beyond perfect, my hands and feet are of average size and so is everything else, not perfection but satisfactory, or so I’ve been told. I have a warm smile, and now that my teeth have either been fixed or replaced, it’s easier to display (if you could see beyond my mask) but those teeth are still not perfect.
When I was in school, my grades were adequate, good enough, not great and definitely not perfect. I squeaked by on good enough before I learned that “good enough” was the enemy of greatness. When I joined the workforce, I did my duty; I gave more than what was expected and certainly far more than what was paid for. But I was proud of what I was doing, happy to do it. But there were people around me, my peers, and people of my rank until I rose above them who would admonish me to slow down, to chill out and not be so gung-ho. I was good and I daresay even great, and when they challenged my actions in the performance of my duties, I fought them as well as the guys that I was paid to fight. In time they had poisoned the well where I drew my water, that cool sweet fresh water that sustained me in my efforts. They had effectively cut Samson’s locks so that he would be more like them instead of pursuing a path to greatness and possibly perfection. Time has proven me right, they are now all scattered to the wind, some of them are back to being ashes, but that which we had started is now mediocre at best. And I learned that there truly is no such thing as perfection when it comes to man, only the opportunity to follow the path in that direction and do all that you can do.
I was late to service today because of my own time management failures, which may be nothing more than a euphemism for being too slow and lazy to get up to speed this morning. I did catch part of it and maybe the part that I caught was sufficient, maybe that was the part I needed to hear, and to reflect on. I didn’t take notes, and my memory is less than perfect in some aspects, I was actually still taking on my infusion of coffee, so I will have to paraphrase the best that I can and where I can’t of course I can just make shit up and you won’t know the difference. Basically he wanted us in a silent moment to reflect within on some basic questions, he gave a list of questions with more words than what I could deal with, and the list of questions got longer and more difficult and I was already working on the first couple of questions in my head. That is a problem on its own, I can usually tolerate one or two discussions in there at a time, but when an outsider throws more stuff into the fray, it really can create chaos.
All of his questions dealt with how we treat others. How we dealt with people, who are different than we are how we dealt with someone mistreating one of our brothers and sisters because they were different, whether or not we had ever participated in that mistreatment, and in general who we were in regards to our relationships with those around us that are different, different by way of pigmentation, orientation, religious affiliation, I added party affiliation to the list, place of origin, mental capacity and financial or economic status would be others to add to the list of those who are different, no questions about perfection simply different. I was standing in a room full of plants and flowers, constant reminders of the beauty and grace in creation, a mix of all types of plants, all different species ranging from cacti to orchids, from philodendrons to tradescantia, all living in harmony. As he was preparing to go to prayer, and I was fading away from his discussion the last thing that I heard was a quote from Romans—“Let nothing put out the fire in your heart”.
And within myself, within that heart that only I can reach and within the confines of my own mind where the voices will only allow me to lie to the outsiders by offering a proper façade, but will not allow me to lie to myself, within there where truth is absolute, but not necessarily shared outside of the realms of my own heart and mind, I did my best to answer those questions. I could continue to function in that fashion, working to convince myself of my own approach to greatness on the way to perfection with no repercussions, from the outside world. But truly, if I hold it all in, then I can’t show anyone else, or guide anyone else, or honestly promote all of the tenets of today’s sermon. By omission, I would be lying, I would be one of those, the ones that tell you how to live and profess their own innocence along with their own perfections, without ever admitting their own flaws and complicity in the failures of our society.
But for me, having to face my own failures and lack of perfection I have to say that there have been times that I’ve called a spade a spade, there have been times where I have told unkind jokes about our Jewish friends, I have gotten accolades for my casting aspersions against the gays, I have grabbed ass and made suggestive comments, I have on many occasions failed to be a model of propriety and have failed to display Christian values, or even simple human decency. I take no pride in any of that. The mere fact that it was the common practice at the time means nothing more than those who I was surrounded by were wrong, and I was complicit in tolerating the wrongness of it all. There is no escaping the fact that I aided and abetted, either by direct action or by failing to oppose those actions.
But, that was a long time ago, and I have grown and learned, from my mistakes. There have been times where I stood with a challenged individual who was being denied service, times where I had to stand up and deny members of the Klan, times where I had to fight against superiors for the rights of others, and there were times where I would do right on one side and not the other. But that was long ago, and as I have aged, I have become smarter; I have been influenced by others who showed me the errors of my ways without ever knowing that I had erred. I started to follow people who did not ask, but only showed how things need to be done. I went so far as to marry a conscience and whenever I feel myself slipping, I can ask her. I don’t ask for forgiveness, I’m beyond that, I asked only that we look at where I am today, how I learned from those mistakes, and the most important part is that as I share the error of my ways that you, one or any or all of you learn from me, at least to the point where you can honestly look into your own hearts and minds.
Perfection is a concept that will escape me, even if I was graded on a curve, but it’s still a pathway and a goal, it has bumps and it has choices where the paths split and repeatedly split again, there are many paths and many ways to get there, but for most of us, following that path and doing all that we can to stay true is the best we can do. As humans, that may be all that we can do, simply doing our best, being honest with ourselves, being open to improvement and letting nothing extinguish the flames in our hearts, let that fire burn pure and true. Let that fire be the light that guides us and shines on for others to follow.