Lenten Meditation

Flaw Joe Hoover

From: The Jesuit Post

If you have ever thrown an elbow or slid cleats high.

If you have ever snapped back or punched first.

If you have ever quietly stolen inconsequential things, small pieces of candy from a store, a magazine from a waiting room.

If you have wiped your mouth on a dishtowel and hung it back up.

If you have argued from authority.

If you don’t wash your hands, not much.

If you decided somewhere along the way – without even realizing it – that you would not have a relationship with the plaintive, pith-helmeted mail carrier.  Instead you two would walk by each other day after day like creatures from a sad divorce eons ago who had forgotten they ever knew each other.

If you fail to give waitstaff irresistible small talk like you used to when you were twenty-three and your charm was the only saleable thing on your resume.

If you walk by figures sleeping on the concrete under rough gray blankets and quietly wonder where they screwed up to get themselves there; and then feel incredibly judgmental for thinking such things.  And then wondering again: really, what did they do?

If vertical lines have formed between your eyebrows from a lifetime of looking at people with suspicion.

If you lack enthusiasm for the talents of others but instead let their despicable gifts swarm over you like man-eating knifefish.

If some reasonable cleric ever told you that in Greek the word “sin” means “missing the mark,” and you turned that into a kind of a general pass for yourself.  As if somehow all the inane, corrupt, or just mildly sad things you do could be melted down and written off into a darts allegory.

If you have ever felt that you were kind of too good for this, and this could be anything.

If you are a resolute pacifist in regard to wars you aren’t even invited to, but undertake silent acts of violence against any number of people who flash into your mind all day long.

If you do not think you are allowed three consecutive moments of honest anger.

If you meet every slight, each missed appointment, every unreturned phone call, with it’s alright, or you were probably busy, or a quick look away and no worries; and so melt away bit by bit into people’s dim consciousness of you as one whose time or expectations are not really to be taken seriously.

If you let slip into conversations with friends that you haven’t visited a doctor in seven years.  And you say this while hoping someone will scold you and order you to make an appointment and offer to drive you herself.  And when they never do, converting this into state’s evidence number 76 why the powers of the world have in quiet indifference arrayed themselves against you.

If you still long to tell people your ACT score.

Or if you humbly refuse to tell them your ACT score when they ask, saying only, I don’t want to boast, you guys, don’t want to boast.

If there is a hint of irony or sarcasm in everything you do and thus no one feels like they know you.  And not in the way that we are all ultimately unknowable, as God is unknowable, and all sentient beings blessed into the dirt of conventional reality are unknowable.  But unknowable as in, just, we wish we knew you a little.

If you seem not to have become the man you wanted to be because…because…you’re lazy.  And it is not your dad’s fault or the world’s fault or low blood sugar or a failure to ingrain into the depths of your soul like some Kendrick Lamar hook the fact that God loves you – but because you are thirty-two and very talented and very smart and you play a stupendous amount of video games.

If you are a heroic and beloved ghetto nurse or teacher or poet revolutionary, and don’t understand why the people who actually live with you can barely put up with you.  And assume it is because, sadly enough, they are probably jealous.

If someone ever told you – dogmatically or not – that the thin silver computer you carry in your messenger bag uses up more energy, from conception to natural death, than a car; or that recycling aluminum cans inflicts as much misery unto the Earth as the equivalent misery they would imbue in a landfill, and you just wanted right there on the spot to give up the whole blessed enterprise.

If you are really, honestly, just not very nice.  Not to anybody.

If you meet with lawyers and sign papers and pack boxes and are still unable to admit that you and your wife are getting a divorce.

If you have had little injections of disease into those lines between your eyebrows, and your clever religious daughter told you that just as Christ became sin in order to redeem mankind, you have become botulinum toxin in order to redeem your face.

If your rent payments are late because you don’t believe in rent, but you still have an apartment that has rent payments.

If you don’t think much of yourself.  If you believe, frankly, that you are pretty much a dirtbag.  And just saying that actually gives you a sense of relief.  But then that relief does not melt away the fact that you still think you are a dirtbag.

If you pay occasional witness from a newspaper to distant wars, to their IED’s and casualty lists, their market squares and holy festivals blown to pieces, to the small photos of stony-faced dead kids from Oklahoma, and wonder why the whole thing doesn’t seem to worm its way one inch into your heart.

If every time you start talking about other people you begin by pointing out that you don’t usually talk about other people.

If your quest for moral perfection is slowly killing you.

If you do any of this, or any of it is done to you – the flaws, the sins, the marks missed; an unhinged world pressed on your soul, or your unhinged sins visited on the world; if this is the case, then this church season of Lent has been for you.  This season, and this week, and its charred days; days with prefixes, Spy, Holy, Good, Holy.  These days are for you not even because you are necessarily Catholic, or Christian, or believe in God or saints or crucifixes as scaffolding constructed for the dismantling of all wrongs.  But because other people do.

And those other people take time to name these wrongs.  They name them and so, like Adam and his beasts, have some dominion over them.  Through incense and kneelers and soft lulling chants they are grounding down, getting into the deep sadness of themselves.  Putting their conscience through its paces.  And something about Jesus, and something about redemption.  Something about laying all on the king.

But first taking firm hold of the flaws, no matter how small, and gazing in confusion and sorrow and wonder.

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