Friday, January 13, 2012

Work in Progress

"Not what thou art, nor what thou hast been, but what thou willt be beholdest God in his mercy".

I first came across those wonderful words in my childhood, when reading Rumer Godden's "In this House of Brede", - a book I loved partly because its landscape was the familiar expanse of the Romney Marshes (Brede was only a few miles away from my home, though the Benedictine community of Godden's work existed only in her imagination), and partly because I guess that even then a part of me was drawn to the idea of making my relationship with God the basis of my whole occupation...
Whatever the reason, I read a borrowed copy again and again and fragments lodged, unbidden, in my memory, to surface unexpectedly when needed.
These words, which I later discovered in "The Cloud of Unknowing", are a regular source of comfort as I fall into the gap between aspiration and reality in ministry once again.
Goodness, did I need them this week!

You see, sometimes even when we try our best, parish clergy get things horribly wrong.
We sleep through alarms and arrive at church 2 minutes late for an early Mass at which we are presiding.
We make choices based on what seems to be the wisest course of action, only to discover later that we should have headed in the opposite direction.
We say "Yes" to requests from people we respect, and find ourselves up to our necks in impossible situations.
We try to love all the people whom we encounter in the community where God has placed us, but some of them, specially when under the influence of drugs, scare us so much that we don't really want to visit we don't, and then discover that it is actually too late.
We get tired and forget things that matter.
We get so overwhelmed by the urgent that the important slips past unattended to.
In other words, - we are relentlessly, irritatingly, human.

Being human has, for me, meant that the past week has been full of failures.
But in all the failures, I know that God hasn't given up on me, and that time and again God works to answer one of my most beloved, if not poetically satisfying prayers,
"Lord, redeem my foul-ups".

Even in a week like the one I've just lived through, I am confident that he does.


janet langman said...

God is always watching us but doesn't make himself known all the time. However, this week, and for me, he did. I was looking for a spare envelope and pulled one out of the drawer. It was sealed so I opened it up and found a beautiful poem called Sorrow. It had been put in the envelope by my long dead mother in law and was just waiting for the moment when I need to find it. I had asked for a sign and there it was - good on you God. It is good to know you have my back covered.

marcella said...

Of course He does, and rejoices at your triumphs and is by your side when you are just trudging along. Hugs and prayers from here.
PS comment moderator word is "strive" - not a bad idea but don't forget to relax as well

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

I'm sorry you've had such a dreadful week, but so very glad that you, too, adore "In this house of Brede". It's one of those books that I know practically off by heart and come back to again and again and again - and that quote is one of my favourites, too.

Anonymous said...

You've no idea how much this "speaks" to me right now as I have had a difficult work-week too. Thank you for sharing, as it makes me realise that we all "fail" no matter how dedicated we are and no matter how much we firmly believe that God played a part in placing us where we work. I did say to God at one point this week, when "the bread landed butter side down" for me: "but I thought this is where you wanted me to be. Why aren't you making it go right?" I hope next week is better for you and I am sure it will be.

Ruth D xxxx

Perpetua said...

Oh, that rings bells for me Kathryn, even to the quote fro one of my very favourite books. We clergy feel the need never to fail, as though failure will reflect badly on our faith or our God. But we are human and fallible and our people need to know and understand that, as do we. I hope next week is better for you.

Nancy Wallace said...

I like your prayer 'Lord, redeem my foul-ups.'It's one I could use often.

UKViewer said...

I was just thinking of your prayer, "God forgive our foul Ups", which can be applied to so many of us, when we do foul up.

I just wonder if we give thanks enough for the times when we actually get things right through his inspiration, guidance, influence in how we act in situations. Do we miss it? Do we think it's our own ego? I know that I've been like that, time and time again in my life.

Yesterday I faced the diocesan panel, which with God's will, might just influence where I go next. But I fouled up, I over ran on my presentation and perhaps didn't really understand one or two questions asked, or flannelled with the answer. But somehow, I'm at peace with it. I know whose failure it was, mine not God's. I've said sorry for that - and am still hopeful that despite my foul ups, his will might just be discerned in spite of them.

It comes back to trust, that single word, which can be so hard to do - letting go, and trusting him.

I pray that your next week, is more good things than foul ups.

Caroline said...

Sorry it has been such a tough time recently, Kathryn. Hope the week to come is easier.

Michelle said...

That book is a favorite of mine, too. We are all works in progress, and if the current state of my bathroom can serve as a paradigm, things under construction are terribly messy, but I can see the beauty in the bones of what is there. Even the holes in the walls...

May next week bring a bit more order!

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