Here is another entry from my 2011 journal, written in Haiti.
This is the second Easter Triduum in a row I’m spending in Port-au-Prince. In Haiti, I could see more clearly that the way of Christ, the way to God, is by way of the wound, the way of surrender and sacrifice. We see this in St. Therese of Lisieux’s Little Way and in St. Francis of Assisi’s way of poverty. Theirs is a spirituality of imperfection. It is the folly of the Cross of Christ, the paradoxical realization that in dying we rise to new life. St. Paul understood this when he wrote: “It is when I am weak that I am strong” This is not a cool message, especially for a society that cherishes strength and independence.
When we are in a place of woundedness or weakness we see more clearly our insufficiency, our incompleteness, and see more clearly our need for God. Jesus said the first shall be last, and the last, shall be first. That sounds silly. We strive to be first, to win at all costs. Last place is for losers. We want to be seen as winners. But the hidden wisdom of Christ says that in falling, in failing, in dying, we are in a place where change is possible, where growth can happen.
But the downward mobility of the Gospel is a message our ego, in its blind love of the status quo, does not want to hear. The path of human imperfection leads to the perfection of God. Simply following all the rules and regulations of any religion, as noble and necessary as that may be, will not guarantee we will find our way to God. God hides in our imperfections. It is in seeing and embracing my mistakes that I learn what does not work. In seeing and acknowledging my imperfections, I become more tolerant and understanding of the imperfections of others, which makes it easier to forgive…and to love.
In life, bad things will happen. Pain, sooner or later, will visit all of us. No one can avoid or escape suffering. Suffering and death are a vital part of the mystery of life. Our money, power, status are of no use in helping us avoid suffering. Suffering does not discriminate between the good and the bad; it befalls all, without exception. But within the pain of suffering the hidden comfort of consciousness is discovered.
The great medieval mystic Julian of Norwich boldly proclaimed that sin is not only unavoidable because of our inherent imperfections, but that sin is also necessary and even good. It is in our recognition of our sin that we find the forgiveness, mercy and love of God.
Jesus said the very rich and the very religious will find the road to God a very steep and rocky climb. Perfection is not the path to holiness. We rise to holiness by falling down to our knees in recognition of our imperfection. We rise only after falling. To plumb our spiritual depth is the only way to reach our spiritual heights.
“Perfectionism denies a person’s humanity and leaves small room for compassion for those who do not meet our standards. The mystic Julian of Norwich warns us well. ‘Sin is behoovable.’ Julian tells us. Sin teaches us that life is a process of growth, not a state of perfection. Sin brings us face to face with ourselves and saves us from the terminal illness of arrogance, an affliction that cuts us off from the rest of the human race and leaves us bereft of compassion for others.”
-Joan D. Chittister
Heart of Flesh: A Feminist Spirituality for Women and Men