On Tuesday, I went to visit my spiritual mentor. He is not a monk or priest, but a retired college professor who has been an inspiration in my ministry. A patient on the Transitional Care Unit, I asked him why he was not eating with the other patients in the dining room. His said that he was not “that old.”
He was not comfortable with conversation that focused on your latest bowel movement and news about loose fitting dentures. I always preferred being around young people whose minds were open and creative and kept me alert to the delights of life.
My friend needs a new hip and surgery would take place on his birthday. Instead of a card and 86 candles, he was getting a new joint and pins. His shared some history that brought him back to a decision about a career. He thought he would make a good doctor. So he asked a scout leader who was a doctor for a reference letter to a medical school. To his surprise and disappointment, his friend refused to write a letter citing a weakness in his character. The doctor understood that working with patients required what is referred to as “professional disengagement.” Simply put, don’t get too close to your patients or it will affect your skills. Sadly, a few good doctors fall victim to addictions to relieve the stress of the job. This physician was expressing a complement and saying that his young friend was a sensitive guy who would find it too difficult to separate from the suffering of his patients.
Instead of a medical career, Walt took his compassionate nature into the academic field and became a well-respected college professor. But his friend opinion in those early years was right. The first time, our professor had to fail a student, he was depressed and upset with himself. He wanted all his students to succeed. He went out of his way to develop a remedial plan for each struggling student to retake an exam or redo a project until they could pass the course. Despite his best efforts to affirm his challenged students, a few would fail his course and that always broke his heart.
I believe our God has a weakness. God is too sensitive that He does not want anyone of us to fail. God sees our potential, the good that He created in our hearts. Sometimes, our choices do not reflect His will or we get stubborn and fail to see the goodness in God’s plan for us. So we lose our way, blame God for our failures and think worse that God no longer wants us to be a part of his family. That is our illusion.
The lesson of life is that we are prone to more failures than success. What we fail to realize is that by making mistakes this helps us focus our attention on what’s works best for us. Following God’s will, living in holiness filled with kindness, generosity and forgiveness reflect the character traits that God first place in our hearts when we were born. We do have lots of weakness, we slurp our food and words, we drool with jealousy and resentment, we practice lots of lying and deception. In spite of these character flaws or sins, we have a God with a major weakness. He just keeps coming back into our life. Why? Because He can’t help himself.
How many thoughts have you had when you condemned yourself for a sin, a weakness that you thought God would never forgive. How many times have you broken a rule of the church and said to yourself, Lord, I am not worthy to receive you because I am a terrible person. Or worse, you imagine that God wants nothing to do with you because of your weakness and sinful nature. Like our good professor, God has a plan to help you not only pass the course but help you to blossom and thrive again in holiness.
Our Lord’s weakness is our greatest strength. From His compassion and mercy we reach our salvation. Praise God and thank you Walt for being such a wonderful, faithful mentor to this priest and all your students. May God heal you and bring you home soon with a strong hip and many friends.
Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends during these summer months that we take the time to express our gratitude for your weakness. In our moments of weakness, send your healing spirit to renew our spirit and restore our strength and fill our hearts with Your compassion and peace.