Monday, May 17, 2010

Ready Enough

I've been wrestling lately with "The Urge" -- the urge I get from time to time to pack it all in and go flip burgers or pack groceries, anything but put myself out there as I do in my role as "minister."  Anything get set it off:  a stray comment from a parishioner after church, an inability to find the right words for a sermon, realizing that I totally blew it in trying to help someone in need . . . about twenty minutes after they walked out of my office shaking their head obviously in deeper confusion and distress than when they'd walked in.  The Urge.

This time it was unleashed by a passage in Anthony deMello's book Contact With God in which he reflects on Jesus' admonition to the apostles in the book of Acts that they should remain in Jerusalem and wait, that they should, "resist the urge to be up and doing before you are freed from the compulsion to act; the urge to communicate to others what you yourself have not yet experienced."  That's all it took, and The Urge was upon me again.

Yet over the weekend I had some help.  As is often the case it came through the most profound teachers I have ever found -- my sons.  I have two boys, currently eight and six years old, and in the years they've been in my life I have learned more about Life than in all of the years previous put together.  I believe that they are at least part of the answer to my long prayed prayer for a teacher.

So this weekend I was having one of those moments during which I looked at them and wondered just what I could have possibly done to deserve this daily contact with these living miracles.  And then, perhaps because The Urge was upon me, I found myself worrying, "What do I think I'm doing?  What gives me the audacity to think I'm capable of guiding their lives?  What makes me think I'm ready for that responsibility?"

And in that moment, The Urge revealed itself to simply be a variation of the daemon "Not Good Enough."  You can see how, "you're not spiritually mature enough to preach," is really the same thing as, "you're not good enough to be a parent," or, "you're not smart enough to launch out on your own," or, "you're not good enough to make the team," or, "you're not [whatever] enough to [whatever it is that you're afraid of doing]."

There is, of course, wisdom in waiting, but the daemon "Not Good Enough" takes that wisdom and twists it until it becomes no longer wisdom but a paralysing poison.  If I'd waited until I knew everything I'd need to know to be the "perfect parent," I'd never have brought my boys into my life -- I'd still be waiting.  If I'd waited until I knew everything I'd need to know to be the "perfect partner," I'd not be married.  To paraphrase a marvelous quote from Richard Bach's Illusions, "How can you tell if you've learned everythiing you need to know?  If you're alive, you haven't."

Instead, my boys taught me some time ago, all I needed to do was be ready enough to be a parent, and together my wife, my sons, and I would work out the rest as we went along.  All I have to do is be ready enough to be a partner, and my wife and I will work out the rest through our marriage.  All you have to do is be ready enough . . . and then remember that, as Anthony Bloom put it, you'll always be a beginner.

If the Christian tradition has a marvelous example of waiting in Jesus, the Buddhist tradition could be said to have an example of being ready enough.  Even though Siddhartha Guatama had spent innumerable lifetimes, and many years in this lifetime, preparing for the six days he sat beneath the bodhi tree under which he experience his enlightenment, he continued to meditate every day for the rest of his life.  He was the Buddha, the Awakened One, and yet every day he sat on his cushion as did every other monk. 

Something to think about.

In Gassho,

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Jonalu said...

Seems to me that the only way to become good at anything is to do it. We can only be better ministers by first being not such good ministers. Learning comes through practice. Gotta start where we are because we can't start ahead of where we are.

RevWik said...

Ture enough, yet isn't that one of the core problems we're told of over and over again? That we're trying to do exactly that -- living ahead of (or behind) ourselves? We can't do it, of course, hence the difficulties we face in life and our experience of life as "suffering" rather than "perfection." Still it's that "living where we are" think that seems so easy to say and so hard to do, isn't it?