Month: March 2020

you’re perfect just the way you are

Well… no, you’re not. I’m not either. Of course, I speak from within my own faith, but there really isn’t a major religious tradition on the planet that doesn’t recognize, in some way, that humanity is broken, that we are all broken and in need of being fixed. So, no one is “perfect just the way they are.” That is to skate around reality. To believe this is to avoid the hard work that belongs to transformation. In ignoring this, you not only keep yourself broken and welcome the continuing ontological harm that it can do to you, you also put everyone around you in harm’s way. Broken doesn’t fix or help broken. It just makes the mess more messy for everyone.

However you want to recognize that you are broken, it just needs to be recognized. You have to see it. You need to acknowledge the reality of it. I’m not talking about Hell or punishment. I’m not talking about whether or not you’re “good enough” to be loved or to exist. I’m not saying anything like that. I’m saying what has always been said, in either good and helpful or bad and unhelpful ways, that this cosmos, this realm of our existence, is cracked, is broken, and that goes down into the level of our being, all of us. We don’t come out perfect. Our “choice-makers” don’t come out working just right. And along the way, we may either learn to be good or learn to be bad, better or worse, if you will. But, we are in need of transformation.

This deep change we are all in need of doesn’t just happen in one way. It also doesn’t happen overnight or instantaneously. Just because someone, however well meaning or gifted, lays their hands on you, and you feel something amazing, and fall down, doesn’t mean you are FIXED. It may have been part of the process, but that one event didn’t do it. Just because you feel guilt over something you have done (which perhaps you should to some extent), and you go to Confession, confess your sins, are truly sorry and intend to be a better human, and receive Sacramental absolution from the hands of a Priest, does NOT mean you are entirely FIXED (think sex-abuse scandal, or about any psychopathic serial killer who’s ever gone to confession).

Transformation into what and who you were created to be is the goal, and this is a long process – life long. There are certainly tangible steps we must take along the way, and all those steps may not be the same for everyone, but we must take them. We must put ourselves under the running water in order to get wet and be washed. These are all analogies, you understand. Almost anything we can come up with to describe what’s going on in that deep, deep process is simply something we come up with so that we can at least partly understand it. We must open ourselves, get into the flow, step into the river, be washed, have reconstructive surgery, get a soul transplant – yes, all that. However we understand it (although partly), we have to find that way to put ourselves into the way, The Way. And if we expect it to happen quickly, we will be disappointed and perhaps, give up. Don’t give up. Adjust your expectations. Keep moving in that direction.

a happy button

I wish there were a happy button. You know, a button on the inside of you that you can push, and there you go, you’re “happy.” I don’t have one of those. I’ve often heard talk of such a mythical thing. You’ve probably heard it too – “Choose to be happy, you deserve it,” something like that. Every time I hear that, or something like it, I wonder where this mysterious happy button is and how it works. Does it actually work that way for some people? It’s in their “chooser?” They get to just make up their minds and choose to be happy?

I find that incredibly hard to believe. Impossible, actually.

First, or second of all, whichever number, this happy we speak of today, in this culture, here, now, is really just a construct. I don’t believe it’s something that exists in and of itself. I don’t think it floats out there waiting for us to grab hold of it and stuff it inside ourselves. It’s an idea which has developed over time, and we have come to collectively believe in it.

Now, even if it did exist somehow, in the way we think about it, to think that we can reach through the deep complexity of our human existence and simply “turn it on” is, honestly, kind of ridiculous.

Certainly there are things we can choose. We can choose, most of the time, what actions we will take, or not take. Even that is more complicated than we often imagine. But, sure, we can maybe choose to do more things that are positive as opposed to negative. We can choose not to speak when we obviously shouldn’t. We can choose not to drown ourselves in dark things when we feel (those of us who struggle with such things) the darkness coming on (and it does just “come on” for mostly no reason). I don’t have to close the curtains, turn the lights out, and listen to The Cure and The Smiths all day, or God forbid, Bright Eyes or Elliott Smith.

Yes, we can choose some things – for some things and against some other things. But I would be in favor of banning the phrase, “just choose to be happy,” or anything quite like it.

Wrapping this deal up, I’ll say this: As a Christian, I would echo both Scripture and Tradition by advising that we pray always. Never stop praying. If your prayer is simply groaning to God, not knowing what to say, do that. If you can only mumble the memorized prayers of your faith training, do that. Throw your hands out wide and let your heart speak. Do something!

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