“We find it difficult to admit our faults and failings,” Doug Schroeder, SoulStream‘s director, said in a reflection entitled “The Gift of My Imperfect Self.”
I read that while I was away co-facilitating a Living from the Heart intensive. During that week, I also noticed that I found it difficult to open myself fully to God and others in our community of participants and facilitators.
As I held these two difficulties–admitting my faults and opening my heart–a question emerged: Could my self-protection be related to my imperfections and how they can distance me from others?
It’s all fine to say that we share a certain solidarity with each other when we honestly admit we’re broken in some way, and we take comfort in Leonard Cohen’s lyrics: “There’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.” But our cracks have a shadow side which is also true. People can only take so much of them. We’re not so enjoyable to be around when certain behaviours rise out of our need to control or our need to be the centre of attention, fit in, look good, and so on. When this happens people may step away from us and we can feel rejected.
That’s exactly what I feared during Living From The Heart. That’s why I found it hard to stay open to “what is.” I didn’t want my current reality to include a shred of rejection. The possibility of this happening with eighteen people together for a week in a secluded retreat centre was pretty high. It’s what makes it so challenging to live in community.
Not long after the intensive, I was talking with a father whose son is addicted to alcohol and drugs. This man has worked long and hard to maintain their relationship. “But I need a break from him right now,” he admitted.
“I can understand that,” I replied. “It doesn’t mean you’ve stopped loving him.”
As I recalled our conversation, I saw people’s rejection (or perceived rejection) to my imperfections a different light. Even if they do need a break from them, it doesn’t mean they’ve stopped loving me.
Unlike God, we all protect ourselves to some degree from each other’s brokenness because of the reaction it produces in us. This often has more to do with the discomfort we feel about our own cracks than with someone else’s. But now, instead of labelling this distancing as rejection, I see it more as the dance of a loving community. We take one step back to take two steps forward as we learn to love each other and ourselves the way we are.
So I give you a new command:
Love each other deeply and fully.
Remember the ways that I have loved you,
and demonstrate your love for others
in those same ways.
—Jesus (John 13:34, The Voice)
∗ ∗ ∗
Narayana Peesapaty is the Founder and Managing Director of Bakeys Foods which has created and produced edible disposable cutlery. India is the world’s largest user of disposable cutlery with 120 million pieces getting thrown out every year. Peesapaty’s utensils are made of millet, wheat and rice. Bakeys’ website says, “The demand for plastic cutlery is increasing over the days. Plastic, a petroleum by-product is more harmful to the human body because of the presence of several toxins and carcinogens. Its application as a food consumption utensil enhances the chance of these chemicals getting into the human system.” The edible utensils cost a little more than plastic (e.g. $4/100 spoons) but once Bakeys gets the volume they need, they can produce them for the same price as plastic. The utensils are made without preservatives, have a shelf life of three years, and even come in different flavours!
What love mischief are you and God doing to care for the earth?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.