Broken, Humbled


Photo by james e.i. sapp, via Flickr

I cruised into church twenty minutes late, delayed because the sitter got held late at work, and slid into a pew two-thirds of the way back. I tried to quiet my mind so I could enjoy what was left of Mass, but everything distracted me, from jaded judgments on people I was supposed to be celebrating with to the mere shadow of my fingers on the upholstered pew. Thoughts that no child of God should entertain—judgmental, dismissive—thoughts that threw into stark relief the divide between who I appear to be, who I aspire to be—and who I really am.

I wanted to receive Communion, but the liturgist in me wouldn’t allow it, since I didn’t arrive until the Memorial Acclamation. Besides, never before had the words “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed” hit so close to home. While everyone else filed up to the front, I knelt, singing “Deep Within” and trying to shut off the part of my brain that I’m ashamed to claim.

Afterward, one of our choir members and her husband met me at the back of church and invited me to sit with them at dinner. I can’t say how much I admire these two people, and the family they have raised. Someday I hope we’ll grow up to be like them.

Sharing a meal with them was good for me. What they are is exactly what I lack: patience, serenity, and loving acceptance of everyone and everything. Spending time with them shifts my perspective. It gives me model of what I am called to be.

I don’t spend that much time at church anymore. While I was working, I did music for anywhere from two to five Masses a weekend, and during the week I practically lived there. Christian and I were in front of everyone, and in the thick of parish life. Now we do what we can, and many of our fellow parishioners we see but rarely—on occasions like this, a dinner for ministers. Several people approached me to offer compliments, to say they missed hearing me sing and Christian play. Five years ago, I was used to hearing such effusions. Not anymore.

And then, one of my tablemates pulled me aside to offer his own affirmation. “When you sing,” he said, “you can summon the angels.”

On the heels of such shameful self-revelation, the compliment seemed to go on and on. You would think that at such a moment, a person would be susceptible to pride. Not this time. This time, my conscience repeated every word he said, and turned it to an accusation of unworthiness. Stand still, I thought. Don’t ruffle your hair. Don’t look sheepishly at the floor. Don’t argue with him. Just stand here and take it like a man. It was one of the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and one of the most humbling.

Where does this lead me? I have no idea. I do not know how to teach myself to see beauty instead of blemishes. How to focus on goodness instead of annoyances. Maybe the point is that I need these moments of brokenness to remind me that “I am not worthy”—to remind me that I can’t do it alone—that holiness is a gift, and a grace, not something I can earn.

But I can aspire to deserve the gift.

6 thoughts on “Broken, Humbled

  1. Well, the good thing is that God loves you the way you are and as long as you are with him you will be strengthened by him. God is good, God is just and God is LOVING.
    I seem so feel sometimes as if I have a wind that’s picking me up and pushing me forward. It’s all good.
    Love to come back and visit here!
    Anna’s Mom 🙂

  2. Sarah M.

    The things you see in that couple you ate with, the things you feel you lack and aspire to, those are the things I see in you when I read your blog. I often find myself pushing myself to be more of the kind of mother you are…to be more spiritual, to go to church more often, to work harder at helping my special needs child, etc. My point to this? I think sometimes we are so hard on ourselves that we forget to see the good things we do. We try so hard to aspire to something that someone else is doing, while failing to see that there is probably someone out there who might be trying to aspire to what they see in us. So even on the days when you think you’re not up to par, there’s always someone else who thinks you are. You’re a great mom, a great wife, and a great Catholic, Kate, even on your bad days. Don’t forget that!

  3. I tend to think that moments such as this are opportunities of purification and dying to self of the sort that are the closest thing to Purgatory on earth. It probably does not feel like a gift of grace to be so aware of your own faults, but maybe it is a sign that you are living in close communion with God? 🙂

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