By Dan Lafferty
I was struck recently - thinking about Jesus and his need to remove himself from the community in order to spend time with God. Thinking about how, as a spiritual discipline it is important to follow in his steps and do the same. But it's not a permanent removal. Always, he returns to the community and gives it everything he's got. I’ve been thinking about something - how we live in this constant tension - balancing, or rocking back and forth between ideal and the real, between our actions and our understanding of truth, between our desire to love and our inability to love perfectly. We should not consider that the tension is necessarily bad. In fact, a more healthy response would be to recognize that the tension is a necessary part of being human and to deny it, would in fact, represent a loss of this humanness.
So, though it seems like an oxymoron, perhaps the power in the teachings of Jesus have a lot to do with accepting this tension and owning it, and living in peace with it. This requires us to remove ourselves from community to rejuvenate, to re-create our ideals and love, and then come back again to apply them in the reality of our communities. In this we may see some success and failures, and we may falter, we may tend to slip back into judging or get discouraged and we may have to adjust our understanding of truth. Then it is time to repeat the cycle again.
The steps we take are repetitive, but they are necessary if we are to walk forward. When living in this tension with honesty and transparency, we inevitably become more and more skilled at applying the tools of forgiveness, grace, and mercy. These tools are the antithesis of judging others because we are periodically reminded of our own personal shortcomings; and it’s difficult to judge others without also judging oneself. This is the lesson that hovers over the work that I see going on at SYM and the philosophy that is applied by SYM staff. While the rest of the world would come up with a formula that requires the kids to change and deny who they are - implying that who they are is fundamentally wrong; SYM would have them become accepted and loved for who they are. This is recognition that for each one of us, true healing of the whole character can come only within the context of knowing and accepting who we are.