Mistakes are the holy stone in the shoe of perfection.
Mistakes pierce the ego that says, “I must get this right,” and offers the assurance that we all are in this together.
Big and small, forgivable and painful for years, mistakes are going to happen. Our best hope is to prepare and do our best.
“Now, remember, Steven, if you run into any trouble out there, you can always bail. There’s never any shame in bailing.”-Greg Universe
The quote above comes from Steven Universe, a children’s cartoon that often promotes messages about healthy emotions and decision making to children and adults alike. It comes from Greg Universe, father of the title character, right before his son attempts something that is both very exciting and unlikely to work. Although his words are few, his message is profound: sometimes, even when we don’t feel like we should, it’s okay to stop. It can be better to abandon the plan than to try and force yourself into something that you know just isn’t going to be worth it.
It’s not that I’m a big fan of failure, it’s just that I’ve had enough gaffes to know that if they haven’t killed me yet, they likely won’t. And as someone who values authenticity and vulnerability, sharing our failures is often a way to cut through the b.s. that’s so much a part of the world.
God’s love is endlessly surprising, uncontainable, unexpected, unconventional, boundary-breaking, against the rules. And that – a love that refuses to be ordinary, expected, or contained – a love that breaks the rules – is really what the birth of Jesus, and frankly his whole life, and death, and resurrection are all about.
Perhaps joy has an important role to play after all. We are surrounded by mess and chaos and a world that sometimes seems like it’s on the brink of being lost entirely. It’s a slog. It’s exhausting. But joy is what reminds us why love, and hope, and faith are worth fighting for. It’s what reminds us that the hard things, no matter how much it may feel like they’re winning, they don’t get the final word. God does. And that is good news.
Our faith dares us, in this season and always, to believe that a better world, a better way, is possible. And we are called to recognize that taking hold of hope, moving toward that better world, requires that we relinquish our white knuckle grasp on the broken ways of this world. After all, we cannot take hold of plowshares and pruning hooks if our hands are still full of swords and spears.
The truth is that believing the promise of peace means recognizing that we have work to do. In faith, we must do whatever we can to help create a world that is both loving and just, and only then can true peace be fully realized.
In 2017, the Barna Group published a study that determined the “percentage of church leaders 65 and older has nearly tripled [since 1992], meaning there are now more pastors in the oldest age bracket than there are leaders younger than 40.” What this tells me is we Boomers must acknowledge we are the generation that is, by and large, on its way out the door in terms of pastoral leadership. I have dearly loved serving the Church of Jesus Christ as a Minister of Word and Sacrament and am grateful for the privilege to have done so, but I do not believe my Boomer colleagues and I will be the ones with the solution for the future. Throughout our denomination, the numbers are declining, the beautiful sanctuaries we idolize are crumbling, and we are unable to financially support the ministries we assume are important. Am I worried? In years past, more so than now; now, only minimally, because I see who the leaders are coming up behind us.
That very optimism about the malleability of the world around us – and our desire to see it left better than we found it – will be a gift to the church, I believe, as the Church hopefully continues to make space for young ministers to step into leadership. It remains to be seen how that will change as our generation runs up against the inevitable pitfalls, setbacks, and general backlash that always happens when folks start tinkering with longstanding institutional structures. I hope we can retain the energy and creativity that has brought us into the public sphere thus far.
The institutional church received my generation as a bumper crop of future members, a guarantee that the future would be more Christian than the past. But we had a very accurate nose for smelling out hypocrisy, the outward forms designed to celebrate the status quo. Our parents might have been more like the priestly class of biblical ancestors who shined up the temple’s sacred relics, while we identified more with the prophets, demanding an accounting of how our worship lined up with the reality in the streets—racism, war, poverty, and pollution.