We have a Lent Study in our little parish, using the book Made for Goodness: And Why This Makes All the Difference by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho Tutu. Friday mornings we gather, a wonderful, committed little band of pilgrims of varying ages, but let's just say that I'm, at 66, the youth group. After 19 years and counting of growing together, we've built trust and love. We share and laugh and cry and explore the Good News together.
Sometimes we're a little 'crazy.' Just enough to stay sane. Was it the same for boys? Did you have all the pressure a lot of little girls had in the good old days :-) to 'Be GOOD'? "That's not nice." You know the stuff... Implied (or maybe we just thought it was implied) that in order to be loved we needed to be perfect. And many of us have striven (or is it strived?) for far too long to be good. Perfect. To get it right. To not get it wrong. To be enough. What would be enough, anyhow? Speaking of crazy-making.
I want to make it clear that when I use the word crazy, crazy is NOT a term I use to define someone suffering from mental illness or depression. Crazy is sort of related to chaotic nonsense in our lives. Sometimes foolish. Sometimes ... well... More like Maggie Muggins leaping in and out of the bathtub playing with the toy on the end of the stick. She enjoys it more than I enjoy some of the 'craziness' in my life - but then she's a cat. What does she have to worry about?
One of the chapters in Made for Goodness is titled: Stop "Being Good." "... the space is very small between"I am doing it in response to love" and "I am doing it to be loved." But in that space resides the difference between joy-filled peace and anxious despair. In short, we don't have to 'act' like a holy man or holy woman. We need to simply live out of the joy and generosity of our goodness." (P. 24)
It's never too late to discover we can let go of some of the nonsense we picked up as children - that may continue to govern our behaviour as adults. We don't have to be GOOD! How about that?! When I was a novice at St. Monica's Home, I broke a vase. I wrapped it carefully in paper and quietly put it in the garbage. Sister Mary Christine taught me the beginning of freedom when she said, "All you had to do was say you're sorry." And there was me thinking I'd be sure to be sent packing if I wasn't perfect.
PERFECT for Pete's sake?! I'm not alone here. I know some of you have tried to be perfect, too. Whatever perfect would look like. I fear it looks rather like walking a tightrope, terrified to step a centimetre (this is Canada, folks) to the left or right in case God zapped us or we fell into some terrible pit, which ever came first. We would NOT be loved. We had to earn love. Yikes. So sad.
It's hard. It's hard to believe that we are good to start with, that we are lovable and loved. that we don't have to earn it, even if we could, which we can't. And what kind of love is it, that's earned at the cost of our soul?
And then, the Gospel for this Sunday is the prodigal son - and I'm enjoying Henri Nouwen's book The Return of the Prodigal Son and entering into the Rembrandt image of the same name. How beautiful it is - how tender - how compassionate the love.
Questions. And I thank God for the opportunity to share the questions and the quest with such an honest and open little gang of women (they just happen to all be women at the Lent Study) in our little parish on the fringes of the church in an area where there are few anglophones left. We're small. We may be dying at some point. But we're alive now. A little crazy and therefore sane. And we're GOOD! Made for goodness.
Time for a little play with the cats. Especially given that Maggie has tried three times to reach a wind chime, landing once unceremoniously in the paper recycling bag. Then, of course, she pretends it was meant to be to hide her embarrassment and tries again. Speaking of crazy. But she's so cute. And she's presently rolling ecstatically in front of the computer screen, enjoying a tummy rub, and almost knocked Made for Goodness on the floor.
|Look at her little pink tongue|