Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Work In Progress

At Mass this morning the homily struck a chord with me and I was thinking about what Father had said on my drive home.  He talked about how each and every one of us is a work in progress.  We're all a project that won't be completed until the end. Think about that.  How often am I trying to rush to perfection only to find that I'm more like the proverbial frog in an algebra word problem who is trying to get out of a well only to fall back a few feet every time it makes some headway getting toward the top.  I frequently find that I'm annoyed with myself for not being able to grasp perfection.  That annoyance, is pride.  And I'd go further to say it's because I often feel like attaining perfection is something I should be able to do on my own.  But I can't, because it's not something I can do by myself.  It requires grace, which I cannot fashion on my own.

So on my drive home it just sort of hit me.  This work in progress that each of us is as we strive for perfection is really a lot like a fixer upper or money pit house.  When you bought the house you knew there was going to be a fair amount of work involved.  You may have even thought you could do all the repairs yourself.  And maybe, to start, you were able to do a lot of the projects on your own.  But what about when you discover that the house has some issues that aren't just cosmetic easy fixes like needing a coat of paint or a new tile floor?  You find out the house has termites or some other problem that threatens the structure of the house.  You need help; you can't do this job on your own.  So you acknowledge your limitations and call in a professional to get the job done.  It's a hit to your pride and probably your pocket because this was your project and you were the one who was going to take this fixer-upper and transform it into something perfect.

If you look at yourself as that fixer upper house, it's easy to see how our frustrations at our own imperfections is pride.  And what is that pride doing?  Is it helping you reach perfection, or is it like a collapsing foundation?  You can't fix that foundation without help and you can't fix a broken soul without help either.  We really are that broken down house, each and every one of us.  Some of us may fly towards perfection faster than others, but we can't realistically expect to become perfect on our own.  No, we need a professional, we need a Savior.

Thinking more along the lines of that fixer upper house, I like to think about how I was at the onset of this faith journey.  I can recall sitting there thinking I really didn't have any vices or any real sins.  And at some point I came to understand that I was essentially in denial. Wanting to be perfect, I was happy to stuff everything that I thought would shatter that illusion of perfection into a closet.  In short, I was ok with just lying to myself.  But I came to a point where I couldn't reconcile my perceived perfection against the words of 1 John 1:8-10.  If we say, "We are without sin," we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing. If we say, "We have not sinned," we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.   Once I stopped deceiving myself, I took a look at myself, the fixer upper and realized there was some work to do.  There was more than just some minor cosmetic issues that needed attention.  There were big problems, too, like termites and structural issues.  Once the big problems were gone, I thought for a short time that I was pretty close to attaining that sought after perfection (Why hello, Pride!  What are you doing over there?).  It didn't take long for me to realize that perfection isn't something easily won.

Like that frog in the algebra problem, every time I feel like I'm getting closer to getting out of the well, I slide back.  Why?  Because just like the fixer upper house, every time I make a needed repair, another issue, which I hadn't noticed needed fixing before, crops up.  And so, looking at it like this, I came to realize that maybe I don't need to beat myself up when I take note of how far I am from perfect.  Maybe when I draw my final breath I will have come close to perfection, but until then, I will remain a work in progress and for today, I'm ok with that.

1 comment:

  1. That was perfect. I've felt the same way and struggle with the pride of thinking I've got it all together when it's obvious that I don't. I'm definitely a work in progress. Happy Lent to you!


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