Tuesday, April 29, 2008

All My Friends Have Flaws

(This is my column from our diocesan newspaper for the month of May)

When I was growing up I was in awe of all the perfect people. Well, maybe they weren't really “perfect”, even back then I knew how impossible that was, but they were really, really good. Had their lives in order, did things they way there were supposed to, treated everyone fairly all the time. I saw those people in a lot of places but I really saw a lot of them in church. And not just right then but all those apostles and disciples too. They had this whole saint thing going on.

Then there was me. I was constantly getting things wrong. And I was constantly getting into trouble. Mostly little stuff but I just couldn't seem to keep my feet on the straight and narrow. In the middle of church service instead of thinking about God and praying and all that stuff everyone else seemed to be doing I'd be thinking about baseball. Or riding my bike. Or that cute girl I knew (that came a little later). I was a total flop at being a good Episcopalian. As far as living up to the Disciples (I always saw that word with a capital letter in my head. They were that good) I could just forget it. Clearly they were on a whole other plane from me. I was never going to get there. It really made the whole church thing a bummer.

As I got older and read the Gospels some more I realized that there was something very wrong with my thinking. Jesus was surrounded by a truly amazing group of screw-ups. He had people who didn't listen, or didn't do as they were told. They got caught up in power struggles and argued with each other (even with Jesus sometimes). They were scared when they should be brave.

The other thing that jumped out at me was that Jesus clearly didn't care. Yes, he corrected them when they were wrong. But he never bailed on them. It didn't matter if you had some nasty illness, if you were someone that “nice people didn't associate with”, even if you held a job where you treated people badly for your own profit. He talked and taught and loved old people and young people and rich people and poor people. In fact Jesus goes so far as to say it's the people in trouble, the people who are messed up, the people with flaws that he came to help.

The great thing about understanding this is it takes the pressure off of everybody. It's OK that I have flaws. It's OK that my friends have flaws. Because Jesus loves us and is here to talk with us and teach us. That's to help us deal with the flaws. In fact now I'm suspicious of people who try to pretend that they're too perfect, that they don't have any flaws. The very best, finest, most spiritual people I've ever met have flaws. A few less than I do probably but they still have flaws. Now I can see them as people just like me working on dealing with those flaws. Now I don't have to feel like I'm some failure because I didn't make perfection.

Then and now the followers of Jesus are real live human beings. Which means we have our stupid days and our clumsy days and our selfish days and our mean days. With a little help from God, and a little help from our friends we get over them. If we keep working at them maybe we don't have those bad times quite so often, or they don't last quite so long. Along the way we get the chance to help our friends and everyone else we meet work on their flaws too.

All my friends have flaws.

Thank you God!


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