Last year I emerged from All Saints’ Mass to the sight of my son, just outside the back door of the church, still wearing his altar server robes and emptying the ashes out of the thurible. Mass had been a beautiful reminder of how none of us is born a saint, and yet we are all called to a life of holiness. And as I watched my son fumbling with the thurible, the ash can, and his long sleeves which kept getting in the way, I smiled thinking how un-saintly he looked but that … hey!... he was working on it.
As we all are. So much of our Christian journey here on earth isn’t so much about the big mistakes, but the awkward and ungraceful ways we try to do the right thing on a daily basis. We fumble, bumble, trip, put our foot in mouth, and make immature decisions. We turn left when we need to turn right. We stay when we should go, or go when we should stay. We say things we shouldn’t, or fail to say something we should. We feel prompted to act, but then fail to do anything at all.
So like Zacchaeus, we climb a tree to get a better view, and then try again.
Then, this past Thursday I was reminded how the destination isn't always reached from a straight pathway. Timothy and I were carving pumpkins for Halloween, an activity which can get messy. So I cleared a space on our counter top, had paper towels handy, and while I carved, scraped, and scooped with a minimum of mess, Timothy carved, scraped, and scooped with a maximum of mess. He got pumpkin guts (sorry, that’s what we call the stringy pulp) all over the place—a carved eye went shooting across the kitchen, a handful of pumpkin pulp landed with a splat on the kitchen floor, and every time he waved his hands he flung pumpkin strands here and there. At first I scolded him to be careful—neater!—but then I just let him do his thing. Timothy was dogged and determined to get his pumpkin carved just right, and while nothing about his process of carving a jack-o-lantern was graceful or even neat, in the end he had a perfect, three-eyed pumpkin with a toothy, lopsided smile.
So I think back on Timothy emptying the thurible, or carving the pumpkin, and I believe we are all children bumbling in some way or another. And that’s a good thing because it means we are still trying. I once read how, in our Christian journey, one goes forward or backward, but there is no standing still. And so we bumble and stumble, things get messy and muddled, but we awkwardly and determinedly make our way. Ultimately, God knows us as His children and sees our intentions for what they are—attempts to be holy.
Imperfect, but holy.