The biblical vision of what it means to be truly human is deeply challenging.
The exalted call issued in the Bible is vastly beyond any human capacity to achieve. I want to be honest about my failure to measure up to the biblical vision of what it means to be deeply human.
Paul was not exaggerating when he wrote:
all have sinned (hä-mär-tä’-nō) and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
“Hä-mär-tä’-nō” means “to miss the mark”. To “sin” is to “fall short” of that glory and beauty for which I was created. If I hold a vision of what it means to be truly human that I believe I can achieve, I have set the bar too low. If I wish to avoid diminishing the extraordinary dignity of what it means to be human, I need to raise my sights beyond what I know I can attain.
It is tempting, when I see myself falling short again and again to abandon the vision. But I am diminished as a human being when I set my sights lower than the extraordinary luminous reality that is my true nature. I do not want to be defeated by my failure. Instead, I want to affirm the exalted vision, while acknowledging how far short I often fall.
I acknowledge my shortcomings, not in order to feel terrible, or to induce guilt or shame, out of some misguided belief that guilt and shame might motivate me to try harder and do better. I admit my failure simply to be honest. I acknowledge my failings so I might live with eyes wide open to see how often I live unconsciously and the tragic impact my unconsciousness has on the world I inhabit.
I wander again and again into unconsciousness. And, when I live unconsciously, I always live as less than the beautiful luminous reality for which I was created.
All have sinned.
We all fail to live in full alignment with our true nature. This is simply a reality of the human condition. In response to this reality, I do not beat myself up but hold even more tightly to the vision of my true nature. I am able to confess my failings without being defeated by my failings because I affirm in my confession that I am not defined by these failings.
I imperfectly manifest the “glory of God” for which I was created; but I am not a monster because I fail. I bear the Spirit of truth and light in a broken vessel.
In acknowledging that “I have missed the mark,” I affirm that there is a “mark” to miss. I am more than any harmful act I might ever commit or that I might ever suffer. As I acknowledge my own poverty and vulnerability, the beauty of my true nature becomes visible.
As Paul wrote,
we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)
I am not the cracked and fragmented “clay jar”; I am the treasure the “jar” contains. To reverse Leonard Cohen’s famous image, it is through the cracks that the light gets out. The beauty of the treasure is seen through the brokenness of the vessel when I both hold the luminous vision of what it means to be human and acknowledge my failure to live fully as the treasure that I am.
The act of facing myself honestly enables me to surrender more deeply to grace. When I admit the failings of which I aware, my heart opens more fully to the power of love. Love is the only power by which I have any hope of living more closely in tune with my true nature.