“Dissimulation, half answers, vindictive attitudes, a false presentation of self are all barbs in the soul of the monastic. Holiness, this ancient rule says to a culture that has made crafty packaging high art, has something to do with being who we say we are, claiming our truths, opening our hearts, giving ourselves to the other pure and unglossed.” —Joan Chittister from The Rule of Benedict
Just when I think I am moving in a good direction with my life and my attitudes, I get this reminder that I am really just clay, water, and some divine breath. There are a few things that set me off in a really bad, fast, almost flashpoint-anger way. Being called out about things in front of other people is one of those things that sets me off, and there is nothing worse than my unrighteous anger. There is no dignity in responding with the same behavior that angers me to start with.
Yesterday during our faculty meeting, there were several things said that I took personally. Whether they were personally directed at me, or whether they simply felt directed at me, I will never know, but what I do know is that I got angry enough to raise my voice at a colleague and then leave the room. All of this after I just had a conversation with Andy about how I felt that this Lent, studying and writing and making big decisions, had really changed me. I was as angry with myself as I was with my colleagues.
I know that people have bad days, and I know my Wesleyan theology well enough to know that I must keep striving for perfection/sanctification. I know that’s why it’s called sanctifying grace, because it isn’t something that just happens—of course the grace to long for sanctification is a gift—but actually getting there is something that we must strive toward, giving ourself opportunities to learn along the way. Sometimes the learning of these lessons is hard, though, and I end up eating a lot of crow.
I feel like that at some point, I should be able to put away my childlike things and behave like an adult. If you’ve read any other posts in this blog, you’ll know that I don’t really want to be an adult, and I covet those moments when I can recapture some bits of childlike innocence in play or thought. Maybe, in fact, this “dissimulation, half answers, vindictive attitudes, a false presentation of self” is really adult behavior. Maybe this is what happens to us when we become adults: we get mean. I don’t know many children who behave as badly as many of the adults I know.
I want to be one of those people I love to be around. I want to bring peace and light to every conversation. I want people to leave being with me, like I feel when I leave being with some of my friends. I want people to leave a conversation with me feeling like both of us were changed by the encounter, like we were real and present with each other, paying attention only to the moment between us. Right now, I feel really self-absorbed, distracted, aloof. I want my life to look like this: “being who we say we are, claiming our truths, opening our hearts, giving ourselves to the other pure and unglossed.” I want to exude Christ and him crucified and raised from the dead. I want to offer grace, not condemnation. Basically, I want to live in the image of God, so that I can forget I am simply clay and water, by focusing more and more on the divine breath and the way it breathes through me.