Close to Jesus even in failure
A while back, it seemed good to remember that Jesus is always close to us and to reflect that our closeness to one another is the ripeness of obeying His commandment to love one another as He loves us.
As we reflect on the failures of our own nation in integrating races and caring for anyone who is in need of caring, it might be good to remember that Jesus is close to us in failure, too.
I woke up this morning from a dreary dream that was something about a defeat. I woke feeling strongly that, somehow, I had failed. When I turned to prayer later, I began by telling God that I "had set myself up to fail," though I didn't know for a minute what I meant by that.
I came to the meaning by remembering the hard truth that Jesus, Himself, failed - in human terms, He was a total failure. Even stronger: I think that Jesus of Nazareth set Himself up to fail. Isn’t that one way of grasping the truth that He chose to die for us?
Jesus was wise enough to know that He could not realistically expect His people to break their inveterate way of offending God (like we and me). He grasped the reality of Roman power and manipulating it. But He refused to lose hope, until the very last breath He took.
What came to me very clearly was the truth that from the very beginning, I knew that I would never reach the kind of holiness that the spiritual writers and my seminary directors were instructing me in. I understood the ideal; I knew that I would not live up to it, not at all. Who doesn’t half-suspect that, at least, when saying “I do”? Maybe we feel let down by homilies in part because they seem to hold up ideals that we know we cannot reach.
I did not know (who does?) what sins would plague me - of selfishness, pride, and sloth - because they hid behind some adolescent failings and personal weaknesses bred into me by experience. I have to praise my family and friends for continually challenging me to deepen and develop - to this morning's experience, where I knew intimately what Paul meant in 2 Cor. 12:9: It is about my weaknesses that I am happiest of all to boast, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me; and that is why I am glad of weaknesses, insults, constraints, persecutions and distress for Christ’s sake. For it is when I am weak that I am strong.
That mysterious sentiment haunted me this morning. My selfishness, pride, and sloth don't really make any difference to the Almighty Creator and Redeemer. My feelings of guilt and failure are the punishment for my sins. He is creating me as He likes me, and the Holy Spirit knows that Rom. 7 is correct - that it's humankind's sin in me that fails this way, and not the self whom He is shaping to His own liking, to live with Him forever. .
And I am immensely grateful, and profoundly content, with God's doing. I pray that everyone in my lifeworld will have that same splendid grace.