Street Level Faith

Last week there was no Street Level Faith article, not because I didn’t send one in but because the paper didn’t receive it. Apparently emails can go astray in the same way that snail mail sometimes does. I was away on a silent retreat in Toronto and so did not know of the problem until I got back late Friday night. Ironically the article I sent in was on the subject of disappointment and was written by Rev. Debra Sinclair. Many people were disappointed about not receiving it – the Paper, me, Debra and perhaps you, the readers. I will re-send it for next week.

Sometimes it seem that nothing in life happens the way it’s supposed to. I was at the Sisters of St John the Divine, a retreat house in Toronto run by an order of Anglican nuns. The first mishap on my “silent retreat” was when I heard a loud ringing at my first meal in the dining room. I looked around to see who committed the misdemeanor of leaving their cell phone on. Much to my horror, I realized it was me. One of the ladies smiled at me indulgently, as much as to say “these things do happen.” I felt a little better.

I made a few more faux pas. In one of the services, I tried to sit beside one of the Anglican sisters. I was motioned to sit at one of the pews designated for the guests. I also tried to pour myself a coffee cup from the wrong coffee urn, one reserved for the sisters. I felt like a new kid in kindergarten, who didn’t know the rules. I felt very vulnerable in this new situation, and yet, I also felt a certain grace in that I felt truly cared for by the sisters who were very patient about my mistakes and awkwardness. Vulnerability is difficult for most of us in this culture, where we like to do things right. I know I felt embarrassed about making mistakes in public.

In the silent peacefulness of the convent, I did a lot of reflection and became aware that in the past week, a core wound had been touched, which had lain dormant for a long time. I heard an old familiar voice in my head which said “What’s the use. I can’t do anything right.” Fortunately, being aware of it helped me to observe and detach from it. Hence it lost its sting. I also realized on a deeper level that God loves us with all our flaws and there is nothing we can do to stop this love. I knew that intellectually but it penetrated a little more to the heart level this time.

There is a saying that we learn more from our mistakes than from what we do right. Part of the learning for me is that when I make mistakes and am forgiven by others, I experience enormous grace. Having received this grace, I want to pass it on to others and forgive them, as well as myself. Those words from the Lord’s Prayer which I have repeated so often had fresh meaning for me this past week. “Forgive us our trespasses just as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

May we be gentle and patient when we meet imperfections in ourselves and others!

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