Friday, September 29, 2023

Musings on a broken butter dish

The glass jar was sitting too close to the edge of the counter. 

When I noticed that empty yeast jar, my mind immediately flashed to one of my young children accidentally knocking it onto the hard tile: a beautiful floor that brutally shatters everything that falls upon it.

I tucked my laptop under one arm and my opposite hand reached over to move the jar out of harm’s way until I could put it in the recycling bin. Flick. I accidentally bumped it into the butter dish. The handle of the butter dish—a little ceramic bird—flew to the counter, then slipped to the floor.

I slowly picked the shards up from the floor, shaking my head at the irony. 

All I was trying to do was move a now-useless yeast jar so that it wouldn’t smash in the floor; but I had to clean up shards anyway—and now my butter dish has rough, sharp edges. Really?

It’s funny, though, how much this type of thing happens in life. We resolve to never be “that parent” who does x, y, and z…and then find ourselves doing those exact things regularly. We say that we don’t want to continue unhealthy patterns of behavior in our families, but we continue to do them. We look down on people who engage in sinful behaviors, but despite our attempts to pray and grow in virtue, we find ourselves falling into sin, too.  Along with St. Paul, we reflect (and sometimes grumble): “What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.” (Romans 7:15)

Some people could see these situations as a reason for despair (“what’s the use of striving for good things if I’ll only fail over and over again?”), but they speak to me of humility and hope.

It’s easy for me to see bad behaviors and tendencies and resolve not to act in those ways. I’m so much better than those people, I think. If only I do these other things, I won’t fall into sin or bad habits like them. Yet, when I realize that I’m doing those exact things, Truth pierces my pride and humility invites me to see reality: that we all struggle with different challenges, and that we are all sinners. And that we are all redeemed; sons and daughters of God who are loved passionately and profoundly by him who made us.

Hope shines through.

I can struggle and fight and feel so beaten down by my failures and struggles to love God and neighbor, but I shouldn’t try to do this on my own. I can’t do this on my own. God is here, pouring down graces, inviting me to experience deeper healing, lasting peace, life-changing love. I am not God (thankfully!), but I can participate in his life and cooperate with his graces. And, even when I struggle and fail over and over, God will bring good fruit out of these hardships and sufferings.

“Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:4-5)

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