Lent is a time for self-reflection, but that reflection can easily slide into measuring ourselves against others. So what if I always make sure I have cash to buy Street Sense from vendors near my office? Unlike others, I have not advocated for homeless rights in D.C., served food to the homeless every Saturday morning, or volunteered at an international orphanage. How can staying up late listening to friends who need a shoulder compare to joining the Peace Corp, digging wells in Africa, or working part-time at a non-profit? Suddenly, self-reflection has us feeling that we are not doing enough to save the world as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mother Theresa, or Joan of Arc would.
Perhaps, like me, such thoughts leave you feeling that the gifts you have to offer God and your community are simply not enough. Perhaps, like me, you suddenly start configuring your calendar to try and squeeze in more volunteering or other activities, as other “good people do.” I imagine I’m not alone in such thinking because we are in D.C.. Here there is a rat race to be excellent in your career, to be with an excellent partner, to be an exceptional parent, and, perhaps sometimes, to be an exemplary member of the church.
And yet, the dirty secret is that pushing ourselves relentlessly towards this unachievable perfection does the opposite of bringing us closer to God. A God who gave us the gifts we offer others. A God who decided upon a universe where people have different strengths and weaknesses so that together as a community, not as individuals, we create a whole. I hope you’ll join me this Lent in honoring the unique gifts we each have to share, and in reminding ourselves that God cares that we try, not that we’re perfect.
– Kathryn Pharr