I’m stuck. I’m really stuck about what to write to you. I’ve had a really hard day and I’m sad and frustrated and feeling like a failure.
However, many of you have written to me and told me how much you value the honesty and authenticity in my writing. Well, this is what I have for you today.
I have only one thought in my mind, and it is the beautiful tattoo a friend and colleague got on her arm this week. It has a gorgeous sunflower, and the biblical reference 2 Corinthians chapter 12, verse 9. The verse is as follows: My grace is sufficient for you; for my power is made perfect in weakness.
And a friend of a friend just wrote to me, “We’re only human. There’s no point in beating ourselves up when things don’t go right despite our best efforts.”
I have slept poorly much of the week. And it has been “my own fault.” I forgot to take some of the medications that keep my mind’s bad neighborhoods watched and calmed. My lack of meds is correlated with hyperfocus on things other than my household, on inattention, and on anxious perseveration.
In part because I haven’t remembered things (especially meds), haven’t done what I could do, haven’t paid attention, haven’t…haven’t… haven’t…I have fallen down on the job. The job, the work, of love.
And apparently love is the topic of the week here at The Way of the River!
Love is My Work, and I Fail at It
Because that work, the work of love, is the most important work in my life. For my lovely spouse, for my other family, for my friends, for myself…for people I do not know and will never meet. For you, whether I know you or not.
It is easy, so easy for me to think of myself as a Bad Guy. To think of myself as the One Who Is Always Wrong. To feel humiliated because it is my habit to feel that way.
But habits may be broken, and so I quote to you again:
“My grace is sufficient for you; for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
“We’re only human. There’s no point in beating ourselves up when things don’t go right despite our best efforts.”
Crappy Best Efforts
Sometimes—often, even—my best efforts are pretty crappy. They are, nonetheless, my best efforts. If we could have done better, we would have. I want to do better. I want to make progress, to break bad habits and replace them with virtues, to be a model spouse and citizen. To overcome my physical and mental limitations.
I will accomplish some of this work in my lifetime. Some of it, I will not.
Some of it will remain undone, and I grow teary just thinking all the ways I will not have loved as well as I imagine I could have.
The Power is Love
Let us go to the first quotation, “My power is made perfect in weakness.”
Holyyyyyyy… I mean holy big deal, Batman.
My power is made perfect in weakness.
That is to say, in weakness—in all my human error and lack of foresight and forgetfulness and hurtful behavior—somehow, the Big Picture is brought into greater focus.
What?! The Big Picture? What am I talking about?
This is the Love that “thought up” black holes and butterflies. This is the Love that somehow caused those first atoms to get together, to embrace, if you will. To attract and repel. To burn and burn and burn.
And is the small-l love too. It is the love among friends and family. It is the love of land and of country. It is the love of puppies in a pile with their mama.
That is the Deity I worship, the Divinity to Whose altar and in Whose house I bring my sacrifice of praise, as the prophets have sung. Both big-L and small-l.
Love’s Power is Made Perfect in Weakness
Love’s power, the great powers of truth-telling and reconciliation, of blessing, of simple adoration, are made perfect in weakness.
And perfect, in this context, connotes maturity, ripeness, fullness, wholeness. Perfection is not some unattainable, truly undesirable state. It is fullness. Love is made full, grows, matures, and ripens through weakness.
Through our weaknesses and our responses to them…
Through our weaknesses and our loved ones’ responses to them…
Through our weakness, love in all its power is made perfect.
Today, I have to believe that because I have felt very, very weak. And I am relying on the love of others to help me in my weakness. I know I’ll always have weaknesses, of course—Love will always have the chance for its power to be made perfect!—but still I long for the day that will never come.
You know, the day when everything goes beautifully on all fronts, whether in my primary relationship, my other family, my household, my work, my spiritual practice, my meds, the rest of my health…
That day will never come, my friends. But Love may always be made perfect through our weakness, our attempts. And in the meantime, let’s not beat ourselves up for being the humans we are, just trying to do our best.
Finally, one last quotation—which I know you’re never supposed to do, end with a quotation, but hey, if you can’t break the rules once in a while, what’s the point? I need this right now, from Grammer and Carter’s song “Gentle Arms of Eden.”
Yes. Tonight I will lay my burden in the cradle of Love’s grace.