“Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.”
~Henri J.M. Nouwen
I am both relieved and reviled by this quote.
Generations of over-achievers have gone before me on both sides of my family. We don’t do things poorly. We push through until we get it right. Where we are weak, we work harder.
So I chafe hard against the idea that in the area that counts the most, that of love and relationships, I will not reach my standards for myself; I will not meet my own expectations.
And yet these standards and expectations exhaust me!
I am a limited, aging, needy, distracted human being.
This fact is a daily disappointment to me. But because it is the unavoidable truth, what a relief that it’s not perfection but forgiveness that is the “great work.”
Much of my time is spent running around cleaning up after people—their dishes, socks, crumbs, spills, careless words, and impulsive actions. The other day I stopped in my tracks, dirty socks in hand, as it hit me that this is how God spends much of his time as well.
“You restore the wasted years, you build the broken walls, your love replaces fear, your mercy makes us whole. Adopted, healed, and lifted…” (Aaron Keyes, I Am Not the
). Tears sprang as I heard this song and was overcome by the sweetness of a God who runs around cleaning up my messes, fixing and repairing what I have broken. He is not above janitorial work.
Sometimes when I’m in the darkness of disappointment over a painful parenting moment or missed opportunity, a little light comes on. It dawns on me that the sting of regret doesn’t have to be the end of the story. The
episode is still unfolding, the “great work” is yet ahead.
I pray under my breath for an opportunity to go back and ask forgiveness or give it, talk about it or listen. I pray for a chance to be present in the way I would have like to have been the first time around. I am amazed and humbled by how many times I get this chance.
Leonard Cohen sings, “Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
Do you have a story of a time when you loved poorly, and then saw
the light and love of God come in a fresh way for you or your kids?
© 2012 Standing on Peace