The Rift Between Ideal and Actual

It is hard to believe we are entering into the third week of Lent.  For some of us that realization prompts the sheepish admission that we haven’t perfectly adhered to all of the resolves about fasting, almsgiving and prayer we made going into Ash Wednesday.

The good news is that, as someone I read put it early in Lent, Lent is a journey, not a pass-fail test.  And when we realize we haven’t been doing quite as well as we might have, we can pick ourselves up and redouble our efforts.

And what is true of Lent is true of our lives in general: our life is a journey, not a pass-fail test.  As Johannes Metz writes in his wonderful little book Poverty of Spirit (another book that would make great Lent reading):

To be sure, none of us drinks the chalice of our existence to the last drop. None of us is fully obedient. Everyone falls short of the human nature entrusted to us. We are all compromised in our acknowledgment of the truth of our being and in our work of becoming human. We never fully grasp the image of our impoverished being. There is a rift between ideal and actual life, between the real thrust of our life and our actual life from day to day. We always remain a promise never quite fulfilled, an image only dimly seen through a mirror. We always stand at a distance from our own selves, never fully sounding the depths of that being called ‘I.’

We are works in progress.  That doesn’t mean we are not remorseful about the ways in which we fail.  It doesn’t mean we don’t try harder to be all we can be.  But it does mean we can approach our journey with patience and without ever feeling like we’ve blown it in a way that can’t be remedied.