we have been watching a series of video lectures about st. paul's letter to the ephesians in our wednesday night family bible studies. last wednesday night, as my wife and i talked about our reactions to this series while driving home, we were both struck by how often we are told, not only in these videos but also in so much of the rhetoric in church, how inadequate we are, how we need to try harder, to do more, to strive more. we both wondered what effect all this constant nagging had on our perception of ourselves and of humankind in general.
this idea that God is perfect and we constantly fail in the face of God's perfection is at the core of much of what we think of as christianity. every sunday, we read a corporate prayer of confession where we enumerate some aspects of our inability to live as God wishes us to live and ask for forgiveness. after the prayer, we are assured of God's forgiveness and sing a short response. i find it increasingly difficult to participate in these acts of contrition. my evolving understanding of God is quite different from what my long-held faith once led me to believe.
if God is indeed all-knowing, if God is the essence of unconditional love, if God is the creator of all that is, and if we are created in God's image, how can we be so imperfect? why would God create us to constantly fail? God surely understands our imperfections and loves us anyway without the need to constantly grovel and beg for forgiveness in order to escape God's wrath. instead, God must expect us to be kinder to ourselves in the same way that we believe God is kind to us. God must expect that we will work to become kinder, more compassionate beings and to accept the fact that we will stumble and have to pick ourselves up again, rather than constantly wallowing in our inadequacy and beating ourselves up over our missteps. perhaps it is ourselves we need to forgive rather than seeking God's forgiveness, which is surely inherent in God's nature without our asking for it.
may we resolve not to allow ourselves the luxury of wasting time feeling guilty for our imperfections, but may we instead learn from our mistakes. may we accept the fact that we are imperfect, that we're all in this life together, and then be as compassionate towards ourselves as we are towards others. may each of us be gentle with our failings and not cling to them. shalom