Saturday, July 9, 2016

Love and Mercy, Today, for the Whole Mess of My Life

We are more than halfway through this year of 2016. And I am already beginning to see the approach of my "mid-50s." There are so many memories to look back upon.

And I must face the truth: I have made a great bungle of my life.

I have failed at nearly everything, and when I have succeeded it has been by the energy of pride and ambition, the self-promotion of vanity and hypocrisy, the desires for what I want, for what pleases me and gives me comfort, for what gratifies my ego and fosters my sentimental illusions.

Illusions. So many illusions. But relentless time begins to make them crumble. I begin to taste the temptations of the later years of life: desperate self-justification, bitterness, envy, cynicism, despair.

However it may look to others or to my own self-deception, there can be no denying that my life has been a mess.

And I cannot use "illness" as an excuse. On the contrary, my greatest failures and (worse) hypocritical, posturing pseudo-"successes" are in the ways I have understood and responded to suffering.

But wait. Stop. Am I not a good man? I pray. I try, at least sometimes. I do believe the advice I have given to others, "Keep praying. Keep trying. Move forward. Never give up!" I haven't given up. Right?

I do try, and when I fail I get up and try again. But so often it's all just tepid. It's half-hearted. It's all tinged, everywhere, with selfishness. Yes, I have loved! But always there is, somewhere, the weight that pulls at least some of that love down from the level of a gift to the level of a transaction. I give of myself, but because I am expecting to get in return.

I have loved, really and honestly, but not with an entire purity of heart. There is always some part of my heart that is calculating and maneuvering so that whatever I good I do, it always ends up being about me.

Too often this selfish tinge is what gives energy to the motivation to love. When I can't see what's in it for me, my love is small and weak and driven by duties that I rationalize away as much as possible.

I look back on 53-and-a-half years of being a proud, irresponsible, vain, lazy, foolish man. It didn't have to be this way. My life could have been so much better!

I suppose it could have been worse, but I can't take credit for that. The grace and the calling and the beauty of God have been so abundantly showered upon me in my life. If I have accomplished anything truly well, if I have loved rightly and truly given myself at all (beyond the murky mixture of my own obscure motives), it is because of the action of this grace in my soul.

Grace and mercy.

What of all the failures of the past? God in His mercy will turn all of it to the good, if only I trust in Him and love Him, now, today.

My love will still be tinged with selfishness, but the miracle is the wonder, the fascination, the recognition and response to God that He begins to engender within my poor love by His healing and transforming grace.

The real story of my life is the mysterious story of what His grace and mercy are accomplishing in me as I beg for His presence, as I seek to adhere to Him and trust in Him and let myself be embraced by Him who has become flesh. Jesus Christ.

I am truly sorry for my foolish life and I am determined to keep trying to do better, to grow as a person, to grow in understanding and love and doing good. But my hope is not in any power that I can give to myself (I should know better by now), much less in an inventory of what I'd like to imagine I've accomplished in my long and mixed up past (God help me!).

My hope is in Him. My hope is in Jesus Christ. By His grace, I hope to adhere to Him whose redeeming love is greater than my weakness, who has loved me from the beginning, who never gives up on me.