|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on March 17, 2021 at 5:05 PM|
As part of my Lenten journey this year, I have been reading The Power of Imperfection by Ruth Scott. Scott was among the first female priests ordained in the Church of England in the mid-1990s. The basic premise of her book is that when we acknowledge and accept our human imperfections, rather than denying them, they can actually become sources of growth, not obstacles to be overcome.
One section in particular has resonated with me in light of the past year. She writes the following: “I am clear about one thing – our capacity for compassion is not dependent upon us being good, but rather upon how we understand our brokenness and work with the (sometimes crucifying) experiences of life.” Her point being that compassion is not something that we can manufacture in ourselves by intention or force of will, but rather it is the fruit of authentic living and a willingness to acknowledge the inherent messiness of life. She further calls compassion, “…a deep understanding of what it is to be human in all its many shades.”
Her words seem especially relevant in our current context. This past year has unquestionably provided “opportunities” for us to experience the messiness, brokenness, and imperfections of the human condition. It is natural for us to feel victimized by the events of 2020 and see it as a “lost year” that we simply need to put in the rearview mirror, so that we can get back to “normal life”. The temptation is to forge ahead and forget.
Ruth Scott offers another perspective. She suggests that it is experiences like we have encountered this past year that engender in us the capacity for authentic compassion, that “deep understanding of what it is to be human…” She points us to a poem entitled Kindness by Naomi Sihab Nye (The Words under the Words: Selected Poems) that speaks to this truth. I share here the last two stanzas:
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.
Perhaps one of the fruits of 2020 will be a heightened capacity in all of us for compassion and kindness. In other words, perhaps we will be a little more Christ-like.
Yours in Christ,