Wisdom

James Baldwin wrote, “My progress report concerning my journey to the palace of wisdom is discouraging.  I lack certain indispensable aptitudes.  Furthermore, it appears that I packed the wrong things.”

I am in the middle of a project to repair and remodel two bathrooms in my house.  Because the pipes within and from my house to the sewer system have very little fall, I need a new toilet that uses 1.6 gallons per flush rather than the new standard of 1.28 gpf in order to have adequate flow for the gravity system to work.  Much to my delight I was able to order online one that met my needs.

The toilet came by freight truck.  But because there was no way the truck could actually get to my house on the narrow streets and around tight corners, I suddenly had to scramble to find a way to meet the truck and collect the heavy and bulky freight.

Weeks later the plumber came to install one of the toilets—a great source of excitement because it meant that the project was finally underway.  However, I discovered then that I had failed to get the comfort-height that we needed and that the elongated toilet bowl that I had bought extended further into the room than I had expected.  Disappointment took over.

Then after using the toilet I discovered it flushes quickly and quietly—a big improvement.  And the elongated bowl being thin allows the cabinet doors to open better than they had before.

My lack of knowledge and failure to be attentive to all the details has taken me on a roller coaster ride.  And the journey has just begun.

My mistakes have been costly, but I have learned a lot.  Having been a perfectionist most of my life, this experience would earlier have flattened me.  Instead, I have learned that a bathroom is a small matter in the whole scheme of things.  I have had a choice to laugh or cry and I have chosen to laugh; the saga (and there is more I didn’t tell) really is funny.  And I’ve had more practice seeing and swallowing that I make mistakes just like everyone else.  It never hurts to know the absurdity of chasing perfection.

Says St. Catherine of Siena: “Wisdom is so kind and wise that wherever you may look you can learn something about God.  Why would not the omnipresent teach that way?”

Queries:

How are you doing on your “journey to the palace of wisdom”?

How well do you use your experience of life to “learn something about God”?

Prayer:

Gracious, merciful, and loving God, help us keep perspective on what really matters and hold fast to You.

For further reflection:

“. . . neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers . . . , nor height, nor depth . . . will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (See Romans 8: 31-39).

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (See Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8).

To Weed or Not to Weed

As I write this I could instead be profitably weeding my front yard—which has no grass, lots of English ivy, pretty trees, flowers in their season, and an infinite amount of weeds.

In chapter 13 of the gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells two parables about weeds.  In the first, there is a sower whose seed lands on different kinds of soil.  One kind has thorns, which choke the new plants when they begin to grow, so they never produce.  The other parable tells about a wheat field sowed with good seeds but when everyone is asleep the enemy comes and sows weeds among the wheat.  The surprising injunction is to let both of them grow together until harvest time.

Sometimes weeding is helpful and sometimes it is not.  To ignore injustice is to let conditions fester that choke out the life or Life in the individuals or groups to whom injustice is done, and also in those in whose name the wrongs are done.  People’s lives may be cut short because of the unjust conditions they face—hunger and malnutrition, exposure to high levels of pollution in order to produce the products wanted by those whose clean air is protected, being subject to gang violence because they can’t see better alternatives, enduring sex trafficking for others’ greed and lust.  With such conditions where is the compassion to which Jesus witnessed?  How can one be loving one’s neighbor as oneself?

We all have faults, but to become solely focused on removing the weeds, in ourselves or others, can result in perfectionism and losing sight of God.  We may forget who indeed is God, and also forget God’s love for us just as we are.  We judge, we ruminate on negative things, we lose sight of life and the abundance of gifts that we have been given.  A lack of humility and too much self-righteousness might prosper, because we don’t always know what are truly the weeds.  Nor do we always know how to pull them up without damage to the wheat.  To weed or not to weed is a question that needs prayerful discernment.

Queries:

What are the weeds in your life?

How do you listen to and care about others who have different values from yours?

Prayer:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

For further reflection:

“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).