Perfection not required
Memories are a funny thing. I once wrote a poem about my dad entitled Lickety-Larrup Louis. I don’t know if lickety-larrup is a specifically western Kansas phrase, or it has its origins in Greek or Latin philosophy with Aristotle or Plato. But in western Kansas lingo, it means someone who does most everything at break-neck speed. Annnnnnd, google has everything. I just looked it up and the phrase appears in what’s known as “the Reverse Dictionary” and under phrases from the past, of course, it is defined “with great speed and vigor – American Dialect, 1907.” Not quite as far back as Plato and Aristotle, but I’m certain had they thought about it, they would have used it.
As I’m sorting through my files, yes the old-timey kind with folders holding pieces of paper, it’s occurring to me that I may be related to my dad. I’m not certain how you all at Grace, or North Cross, Asbury, or Baldwin 1st put up with my lickety-larrup-ness. Could I have tried to have us start more things and have more things going all at the same time without pause?!!? Seriously? I’ve never been diagnosed with ADHD, but I have to say, if I were making an assessment, it would seem to me I do have some challenges with letting things settle into a breathe-able rhythm. I do remember not long after starting at Baldwin 1st and then Grace, that I had folks come through the line after church and invite me to slow my preaching down a bit so they could hear it better. I thought at the time it was their hearing limitation, ummmm, I think not so much. There was also that one Easter where a fair amount of you asked how many cups of coffee I’d had before church that morning as I was a bit energetic in my presentation. A politically correct way of saying I was a bit over the top in speaking speed and presentation that day.
God blesses each of us, without leaving anyone out, with particular gifts, and then we are invited to process those within our own imperfections to try and live into and grow our discipleship and service to offer those gifts to the world. Even the Apostle Paul talks about a “thorn in the flesh” . . . “Three times I appealed to the Lord about this that it would leave me, but the Lord said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Cor. 12:8-9a, NRSV). Some have speculated Paul had epilepsy, others that he had a stigmatism with his eyesight, others that it was his own arrogance. I’m not sure getting caught up in the specifics is really the point. Essentially God says, of course you’re imperfect, it’s my grace that allows you to serve. And remember with me Moses when God is calling him to go to Pharoah to release God’s people from slavery and Moses tries to say no five different times, his final reason in vs. 10 of Ex. 3: “But Moses said to the Lord, ‘O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” And God answers, “Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.” (Ex. 3:10,12, NRSV). Some have speculated Moses had a cleft palate or stuttered or spoke with a lisp. Again the specifics are less important than God reminding Moses that he has the gifts God needs and he simply needs to walk forward in faith acknowledging his limitations and trusting God.
Please hear me, I am NOT claiming status with Paul or Moses for oh so many reasons, what I am saying to all of us is that we each have limitations and imperfections and God’s promise in grace is that perfection is not what is required, faithfulness is.
It’s sometimes easy in celebrating a retirement or a leave-taking of any kind, to begin imagining that the person leaving was actually more than what they really are. Our memories can soften weaknesses, not a bad thing necessarily, to allow us to celebrate with joy. That is a wonderful gift that God gives us in relationship with one another. The challenge on the other side of that is sometimes not being as open to someone new coming in that is not the same. That is not what we will do at Grace, I know our hearts will be open when a new pastor is appointed and arrives. I still want to lift up that someone with different gifts and yes, different limitations – we all have them – will need our openness and one of our best gifts at Grace, our sincere hearts that are willing to love leaders into their best selves, strengths, limitations, and all the rest of our messy complex humanity that makes us who we are.
I do not believe you all have any illusions about my limitations, you know them quite well and have found a way to accept them and work with them all these years. And while it is hard for me in my way of being, I also know you are far more willing to share gratitude for my strengths than I am willing to acknowledge in myself. Some of you have nicely and quite firmly shared some frustration with that, and please know I am working on it, usually for about 10 minutes on Mondays. snort What I appreciate is our shared desire to live authentically with one another without either false humility or blind arrogance, but rather a heart for seeking, even in our hardest moments, to know each other as wholly as possible with acceptance and a good dose of humor to lighten our steps along the way.
Both my dad and I are slowing down in these later years – and I’m guessing we both bless and curse that in our own unique ways. Not running with the same lickety-larrup-ness each day is a bit unsettling, and at the same time, it offers an opportunity toward a more sacred rhythm into which God can speak with ever-present and abundant grace. And what goodness there is in God’s patient understanding, and God’s power and faithfulness for God’s vision to be done with we imperfect but quite entertaining human beings that God creates and loves, quite literally, the h-e-double-toothpicks out of.
Sorting files HAS to be the most pain-staking and suh-looooow part of packing, and there is very little positive reinforcement of seeing what you’ve accomplished. But the glimpse they have given of our shared past has been eye-opening in so many ways. This old girl still has so much to learn and a good bit of ministry of some kind still left to do. And you, you my friends also have so much great ministry to do with the leader God will bring with excitement, new vision, and new and glorious ways to help lead and empower you toward what God is already blessing. Let’s celebrate with each other this next Sunday afternoon and know that in the celebration God is already at work for the best for each of our next chapters!