The other night a group of us were out together: Maurice Broaddus Rob Rolfingsmeyer, Rich Vincent, and Lauren David. We hate to shatter any illusions, but during the course of our discussion we came to the startling conclusion that we can be asses (except for Lauren). It’s not like any of us set out to be the Dr. House of the theological set, it’s more of a resignation to the facts. We’re not going out of our way to be an ass, we simply know we can be asses. And yet the question comes up “do we have any business attempting to model what the church should be about, much less the love of Christ?”

We have a certain idea of what a saint is and are too quick to label people saints without considering what we mean by the term. After all, even the best of people are but flawed vessels, yet flawed vessels are the only kind of person God works through. To quote Miroslav Volf, “I am not a Christian because of the church, but because of the gospel. However, it was only through the broken church that I received the gospel. Because of the gospel, I participate in the church.” Think of some of the greats. Mother Theresa of Calcutta was known for her temper and how mean she could be. Francis of Assisi hated lepers despite talking about how much we should love everyone. Yet God manages to continue His work through us.

It’s easy to fall into cynicism. A cynic is a frustrated idealist, with the emptiness they so often experience being a symptom of their inability to let go of their idealism. Most people are idealists at first but there must come a time in everyone’s lives when your ideals and your dreams must be measured against reality; where “what could be” and “what ought to be” is measured against “what is.” The false facades begin to crumble and those things which had been so solid and so true are not able to withstand the crush of practicality. What do we do when this happens? How do we handle our disappointment with the truth of life itself? It’s what we do with these questions that end up fundamentally shaping our mature selves. Do we hide in a corner and deny those things that seem to be crushing defeats? Do we toss up our hands in frustrated resignation and give up on whatever it is that we’d dreamed of for so long?

Such profound disillusion is often wrestled with the transition from childhood to adulthood (and thus probably a contributing factor to the condition of being a spiritual teenager). Starting with your parents and moving onto the institutions you want to hold dear (school, the government, etc.), it becomes a struggle to survive nothing, and no one, being as you thought they were.

There is an option that allows for growth and maturity in our lives. From its very foundation it is frightening and tends to take a lot of work (some of which may call for sacrifices which you’d never imagined). Fusing your ideals with the reality you have to work with. Hunting down those parts of your ideals that are able to be sacrificed without losing the whole and learning to integrate new ideas and new thoughts which previously seemed foreign and even counter to what you held so dear. Sometimes it calls for a delicate shifting of boundaries without sacrificing the core of your beliefs. Sometimes even the core must be discarded.

It’s not so easy to make the changes in our lives necessary to balance reality with ideals. It’s an uncertain time fraught with error and simply speaking, those mistakes must be made. If there is to be any room for growth you need to be unashamed of your own fallibility. Your mistakes are what mold and shape you if you learn from them. The lessons rarely come easy and at times can be quite frustrating.

We have faults and we make mistakes, so we’re going to need your grace as we journey together. We keep in mind the words of a friend of ours: “Instead of talking about what horrible people we are, why don’t you go out and try to be the people you wish we were? If we do such a horrific job at loving people, why don’t you go show us how it’s done? If we are incapable of meeting hard to like people where they are at, why don’t you go meet them where they are at?”

*A Maurice and Rob tag-team blog effort. With Lauren as the cheerleader.