Thom wrote further in his reflection, reminding all of us that when we slip (it's inevitable that we will), there is a sense of the Spirit setting us back on track. Thom says he hears the whispered words, "Try again." "While we may not always be resolute, the Spirit is. While we may not always love without stopping, the Spirit does. While we may not always hold on tight, the Spirit does. One day, God willing, keeping our eyes open, holding tight to our convictions, giving all we've got, being resolute and loving without stopping will become second nature. Until that time though, thank goodness for second chances and forgiveness. Knowing we have unlimited second chances and forgiveness without bounds, lets us relax and at least hold a bit tighter. Love without stopping today, if you can, friends, and peace." ---so writes my brother, Thom.
I don't know where my brother gets the inspiration for his reflections; he would likely tell you it is from the Spirit. More often than not, I get my inspiration from popular culture...from reading. Such is the case now, when I offer to you, four necessary declarations for members of a faith community. These declarations are from a book written by Canadian author Louise Penny, spoken by her primary character Chief Inspector Gamache, Homicide Division of the Sûreté Du Quebec. In that book, Gamache tells one of his subordinates that in order to become a competent detective, one must learn these four declarations:
I don't know.
I need help.
I was wrong.
I don't know - it's alright to admit to uncertainty, to be openly questioning about aspects of my faith. I have doubts every day, especially when it comes to faith in action, faith in day-to-day circumstances. I usually get by okay on Sunday, but every other day of the week, it's a challenge to live up to the teachings of Jesus. It's hard to be a disciple - the Way isn't easy. There are times when I feel the pressure to act, to act in a way that feels uncomfortable to me. Admitting that I don't know is the first step for me to discern what form my faith should take.
I need help - man oh man, do I need help! This might be the biggest of the four for me. It's always been an issue for me to trust in others, to welcome their aid and assistance. I'm strong, I'm self-sustaining, I'm independent...all that sort of thing. Sooner or later, in whatever life I lead, I find just how inadequate I am, just how much I need others. I'm learning to recognize where and when I need God to be my helper.
I was wrong - I dread having to say those three words, but when I do, the sense of relief and opportunity to make amends is huge - they are the reward I receive when I face another and admit to error. If I ever need to make a fresh start in a relationship, in a project or in life, "I was wrong", is the best way to begin.
I'm sorry - it's fashionable right now to make fun of people who say, "I'm sorry", too much. I guess there can come a point where when it's said so often it loses it's meaning. I have to say though, it's the first step to forgiveness...and it's a hard step to take. I know people who cannot bring themselves to say it. In a family of faith, where things get said and done that can be hurtful, being able to declare that I'm sorry is an essential aspect of belonging. In the community, it ought to be easy to say this, and it ought to be be received with grace.
I've been thinking about these four declarations for over a month now and it's just today that I recognize that they aren't intended to be used in isolation from each other (I wonder if I skipped that in the book?). At the very least, they work in pairs...probably, they work best when all four are integrated and applied daily. Being an active member of a faith community isn't easy and the further I get involved, the more challenges I face. It forces me to be honest where I would rather not, to admit to weakness and uncertainty, more than I wish. It calls on resources I might have held back, and to work with people who stretch my character. I'm learning a new normal with every step I take on the Way.