On Sunday, October 29, we welcome The Many to ORUCC. Lenora Rand, a member of the group, offered this reflection.
My mom died six years ago but her birthday is coming up…November 1, so I’ve been thinking about her this week.
She was a pastor’s wife for most of her life – 65 years — taught Sunday School, led women’s Bible Studies, raised four kids on a preacher’s salary, visited the sick, threw dinner parties for large groups, baked a lot of cakes, took care of grandchildren, believed in the power of Clorox and hard scrubbing, made these amazing dinner rolls that will probably be the bread served in heaven, once performed “Twist and Shout” at a pastors’ gathering talent show, wearing a Beatles wig.
And she ironed.
Many people who knew her thought of her as a kind of minor saint.
My mom and I had a rocky relationship. I loved her, but her flaws were always very apparent to me. A saint…not so much.
I don’t know about you, but when I was younger, when I’d hear All Saints Day, I tended to think of the people who’ve been canonized for their outstanding piety, virtue, and goodness. Your basic American Idols of holiness.
But I’ve been thinking lately, perhaps the saints we’re meant to celebrate today are actually more like us than different.
People who maybe aren’t such perfect examples of piety and goodness all the time. But simply people who, through their very ordinary, very human, absolutely flawed lives, still manage to bring a little more love and hope, mercy and grace into the world. Manage to open the window, a tiny crack, now and then, to something bigger and better and brighter than your basic trudge-through-the day-paying-the –bills-and-getting-stuff-done-ness that our lives can so often become.
My mom, I have been coming to realize, is on that list of saints.
She’s someone who managed to, in the midst of her messy, imperfect life, put some more grace and love into the world. Even into my life.
My mom, may actually have been the saint that taught me that it’s OK to name and claim your own messiness and imperfection.
There was always at least one drawer in whatever house we lived in when I was growing up that my mom claimed as her CBI drawer. CBI stood for Confusion Beyond Imagination. That drawer was the catch basin of our lives. The place where you put stuff you couldn’t deal with in the moment. Or something which you weren’t quite sure, where it belonged, or if you should even keep it. And it was a mess.
Of course, I’ve created a drawer like that in every house I’ve lived in as an adult too.
When my daughter Zoe was about 5 she had a friend, Ali, over for a play date. At one point during the play date Zoe asked me for something she was missing and I pulled open the CBI drawer and started digging around in there, while Ali and Zoe looked on. Ali’s eyes were on me in an expression I couldn’t quite read. So I asked, cheerfully, “So Ali, do you have a drawer like this at your house?” And Zoe interjected, “Of course not Mom, Ali’s mom is actually organized.”
The truth is, that CBI drawer in my house looks like how I feel so much of the time.
I’m so very aware of my imperfections.
But, here’s the thing… I also want to do things right. Get things right. Not mess up. Do things perfectly.
So, I’ve got to admit, too often I’ve been a poster child for that phrase we’ve all heard: The perfect is the enemy of the good.
Like sometimes I’ve been silent because I wasn’t sure I knew the right thing to say. Sometimes I’ve done nothing because I didn’t want to do the wrong thing. Sometimes I’ve been so afraid of not doing things perfectly, I’ve ended up not doing much at all.
We’re living in a world of hurt right now. Everywhere we look. Refugees without homes, people of color getting the message loudly and clearly that their lives don’t matter. LGBTQIA folks still being told by “good Christians” that they are not part of God’s plan. Gun violence so prevalent we are barely even shocked by it anymore.
Luckily for me, and for all of us, to be on God’s path, to follow God’s way, to do justice, love mercy, care for the poor, free the captives, heal the broken hearted… perfection isn’t required.
As we heard from Psalm 145 this morning:
God is all mercy and grace.
God is rich in love.
Everything God does is saturated with grace.
That’s good news, isn’t it? For all of us unsaintly saints. And maybe as Frederick Buechner said about saints in his book, Wishful Thinking, if you look closely at their lives, their crazy, confused, anything but perfect lives, what becomes most clear is that, “…maybe there’s nobody God can’t use as a means of grace, including even ourselves.”
Perhaps all of us are the imperfect saints the world needs desperately right now. Perhaps we can go for good instead of perfect…step into places where we don’t know what we’re doing exactly, where our CBI drawers are wide open… but still stepping up, standing up and standing with love anyway. Doing something. Doing what we can. Not perfectly, most likely. But not nothing.
That’s what I pray I can do, anyway.
Because maybe that’s all that any and all saints ever really do anyway.