Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Surprised by unrefinement

“I can’t remember his name,” my 90-year-old grandmother grumbled at some point in our conversation. “I tell you, when you get to be my age, your brain just starts slipping away.”

The woman is of course the sharpest 90-year-old I know, so I didn’t take her momentary memory lapse very seriously. “Well Gramma,” I absolved her stupidly, “at your age, you’ve earned the right to forget a few things.”

The 4-foot-10, one-armed Polish woman looked at me with her silent eyes where the struggles of the Great Depression and World War II were long buried, and she raised an eyebrow that indicated her wit had spotted a opening. “Well,” she retorted gruffly, “I wish I coulda earned something I’d enjoy having a little more.”

No Gramma, I wanted to counter, your brain is clearly intact.

But she was right: we don’t always earn a particularly enjoyable trophy for all the hardships we endure to arrive at the other side. I always want to punch the people who say “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” (except that it would probably make them stronger). Sometimes whatever doesn’t kill you makes you crippled or makes you bitter. I always hope to come out of adversity with confidence; instead I tend to come out of it with a limp. Yes, Gramma, I wish I coulda earned something I’d enjoy having a little more too.

Here on this process of sanctification, we don’t always get to choose our curriculum, and we certainly don’t get to choose our lessons (after all, they wouldn’t be lessons then, would they?). I would rather have the curriculum that involves turning me into someone a bit more stable; instead I get the one that turns me into a twitchy dog. I often want to question God’s pedagogy.

And when we limp our way to the finish line on aching joints and reach for the railing with our shriveled hands, surprised by our own unrefinement, I hope we will learn whatever it is that takes us 90 or more years to realize. Reaching sainthood is not about becoming superheroes. I rather wonder what it is instead.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wonderful writing and insight