"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 them...so 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.