I just spent two weeks in a convalescent home for therapy for a badly shattered shoulder.
After a few days I felt good enough at eating with my left hand to eat lunch in the dining room.
Being there temporarily, I had just brought exercise clothes.The others were all dressed quite elegantly, even with matching jewelry. I felt a bit shabby until a helper put baby blue terry cloth bibs on all of us. Somehow bibs are a great equalizer!
I have wondered often why God allows old age to be so humbling. Having some pride seems a virtue of sorts. But now I think that is what old age is about. Recognizing that we are all equal in God’s eyes and loved just as we are without one plea or status symbol. Over and over Jesus tells us that His way is not the world’s way, that our value is based on the love of God, not achievement, riches, nationality, religion, image.
More and more I realize that only when we either let go or are stripped of those, do we discover not only our human brotherhood, but our oneness with all, including Jesus, the human expression of the unconditional love that is God.
What was the “Way” of Jesus? It was to witness to the Love that is God by healing the sick, feeding the hungry and calling us to do the same. How did it end in worldly terms? In helplessness, unvalued by the world, identified with the lost, no longer even able to help himself, never-the-less others, abandoned by almost all of those closest to him.
I can tell you from experience with my mother’s dying by inches with Alzheimer’s and friends who spent their last years in nursing homes or even alone most days living with their children who work, Jesus’ last days describe many peoples’ last years.
We leave the world the way we came into it: naked, helpless, equal, of infinite value, and loved by God because of whom God is, not whom we are.
And the challenge of life is to become able to love ourselves and others the same way.
The heart of true religion is spirituality. Then and only then can it become communal. If our faith communities are not made up of people with a humble personal relationship with God based on our own ongoing needing and receiving forgiveness, our faith communities will become legalistic, judgmental, unforgiving, about pride and power, and ultimately conflict ridden.
The heart of the spiritual life is a personal journey from recognizing our human weakness and failures, then experiencing forgiveness and unconditional love, to an ongoing response to this grace of becoming more and more able to love others in the same way. It’s an ongoing cycle of repentance and grace and growth in the freedom to love.
The heart of unconditional love is forgiveness. No one is perfect. We all need forgiveness and new beginnings throughout our lives. Truly accepting forgiveness and forgiving others are interdependent. And forgiveness and love are inseparable. We can’t accept or give one without the other.
Each day we are called to open our hearts and minds to God, to find God’s grace in: a first cup of coffee, morning birdsong and sunlight, star filled darkness, storms, fear, difficult people, beauty, a tearful child, a faithful pet, sharing our daily bread, our own and others’ brokenness, sorrow, joy, forgiving, laughter, loss, love, every moment, every human experience, every human relationship, and every human being. When we have “God” eyes, we see God and God’s love everywhere. When we are filled to overflowing, God’s love can pour out for everyone, even those who need our forgiveness.
More than walls of brick or thorn
our walls of silent words unborn
still keep us from becoming one.
Our walls of pride leave us remote
as if we wore a buttoned coat
of our own selfishness.
Until, ashamed of loss of heart
we seek, in faith, the grace to start
to risk ourselves once more.
To heal the hurt with words of love
and find a way to rise above
the lonely walls of self.