The glory of God is found in the ragged mess of our human experience
“The glory of God is found in the ragged mess of our human experience”
When I heard this quote as part of a podcast I was listening to this week I had to press stop, re-listen and write it down. This thought wasn’t a new one to me but these words seem to express so eloquently the essence of being human.
As human’s we tend to demand a very great deal from ourselves. We love to achieve, to live successful lives (however we interpret that), to be seen as “making it”, as having everything sorted. We’re often asked by the world we live in to get it together, there’s a call to action ringing in the air, to pull our socks up, to dig deep within, to be heroes of our own lives and in order to do this we are often required to put aside what’s really going on. We can be forced to wear a brave face pretending that all is well when that may not actually be the case. This way of responding to ourselves is not kind and lacks any form of compassion and yet for most of us it tends to be our default setting, it’s ingrained deeply into our culture.
I was speaking with a friend this week and sharing an area of stuck-ness, I shared of the frustration I had with myself of making seemingly slow growth and of wanting to be further along than I was. It wasn’t until she responded by saying that the way I was treating myself “wasn’t very kind” that I realised how hard I was being towards this part of myself. It was a good reminder to give myself permission to be exactly where I am and it re-opened space to receive compassion and love towards that place rather than criticism.
As a Spiritual Director I am often having to gently communicate to those I companion that they too are not being very kind to themselves. During Spiritual Direction, we’re often invited to create a loving, compassionate space for the “ragged mess of human experience” rather than pushing it aside, hiding it, belittling it or pretending it doesn’t really matter. We have a great tendency to treat ourselves with a harshness that we would never offer to anyone else.
The human spirit is strong, resilient, brave and enduring. We have faced incredible trials throughout our existence and will continue to do so. The human spirit is also weak, frail, fragile and broken, we are indeed messy in every way possible. Perhaps being brave actually means admitting our frailty and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable.
The incarnate Jesus seemed to model this for us so well. His glory was evident not only when walking on water, raising the dead and performing miracles but also in his personal journey through the wilderness. He wept openly for Lazarus and he was in great anguish in the garden as he saw the path ahead. His glorious divinity shone through in the miracles and in the suffering. Are we not also made in his image, divine by nature, glorious in our struggles as well as our places of ease. Can we, like Jesus, who was also fully human, make space to accept all of the parts of being human, even moving beyond acceptance to loving, caring for and celebrating those parts that feel frail and vulnerable?…
…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. (Matthew 23:37)
Are we willing to let the Holy Sprit gather us – every part of us – under her wings and there find deep healing and loving acceptance? Are we willing to be vulnerable and give ourselves permission to be a ragged mess knowing that this is glory of the most beautiful kind? Perhaps the very essence of being human is the glory of God, that God looked at what he created and said “it is very good”. This human experience is not easy, it is messy and fragile but in every part the glory of God can be found.