Wednesday, June 08, 2016

God Overcomes Scrambled Eggs


Some years ago, a young man came to me for confession. It was a difficult confession for him. He had been having an affair with a girl and she had become pregnant. For a series of reasons, marriage was out of the question. The pregnancy would, irrevocably, disrupt both lives; hers and his, not to even mention the life of the child who would be born. Being a sensitive person, he needed no reminders that he had been irresponsible. He made no attempts to rationalize, to offer excuses, or to escape blame and responsibility. He recognized that he had helped create a situation that was irrevocable, some things would never be quite the same again. He ended his confession on a note of sadness and hopelessness: “There is no way I’ll ever live normally again, beyond this. Even God can’t unscramble an egg!” What this young man was saying was that, for him, there would always be a skeleton in the closet. Ordinary life would limp along, but he would remain forever marked by this mistake.

Today we live in a world and a church in which this kind of brokenness and attitude are becoming more the rule than the exception. For more and more people, there is some skeleton in the closet: a broken marriage, an abortion, a pregnancy outside marriage, a betrayed trust, a broken relationship, a soured affair, a serious mistake, a searing regret; sometimes with a sense of sin, sometimes without it. Sadly, for many, this comes, as it did for the young man, coupled with a hopelessness, a sense that something irrevocable has happened.

What we need more than anything else is a theology of brokenness that relates failure and sin seriously enough to redemption. Too often, what is taught as redemption is little more than harsh dogma: one chance per lifetime, salvation through getting it right, happiness and innocence only when there is nothing to be forgiven. We have too much fear; in the end, of God. Ultimately, we look at the scrambled egg, at our own mistakes and sins, and believe that the loss of a certain grace is irrevocable, that a mistake hangs us. Basically, we do not believe that there is a second chance, let alone 70 x 7 chances, that can be just as life-giving as the first one.

If the Catholicism that I was raised in had a fault, and it did, it was precisely that it did not allow for mistakes. It demanded that you get it right the first time. There was supposed to be no need for a second chance. If you made a mistake, you lived with it and, like the young man, you were doomed to be sad, at least for the rest of your life. A serious mistake was a permanent stigmatization, a mark that you wore like Cain.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that they realize that the God we pray to is a God of mercy. We need a theology that tells us that a second, third, fourth, and fifth chance are just as valid as the first one. We need a theology that tells us that mistakes are not forever, that they are not even for a lifetime, that time and grace wash clean, that nothing is irrevocable.