I live and work in the same compound, which means that I never really go home. I work, eat, socialize, and cannot avoid the same group of people. The other night I was in the gym and ran into a colleague. He looked at me and incredulously asked “What are YOU doing here?” “Um, um, um” I stammered for a bit… “I’ve been having some trouble with insomnia lately, so I’m trying to work out…umm…” He looked horrified and said “I meant, what are you doing here at this job, I thought you transferred to Washington D.C.” Oh.
I am continually fascinated by the thought that we are the instruments in God’s hands for serving one another, for mourning with those who mourn, for comforting those who stand in need of comfort. We’re so naturally lousy at it. Let’s put aside the actual intentional harm we cause other people…the pettiness, the gossiping, the sniping comments. Let’s just consider the inadvertent idiocy that we sometimes wallow in. In this case, the misunderstanding was cleared up fairly quickly, and we both laughed and moved on. But I can’t count how many times I’ve been simply mystified by the things that people have said to me in church, and I certainly can’t count the times that I’ve been well-meaning but misunderstood. Why, when God is perfect, does he place such faith in those of us who are undeniably, and awkwardly, imperfect.
Yes, we need to use this mortal experience to learn and grow, and it would be impossible to do so without interacting with other people. We need these awkward experiences for our growth, but they come at such a high price to others. We’re all familiar with the familiar refrain, heard alongside every lesson on forgiveness, that many leave the church because of real or perceived offenses. Surely there should be a better way to nurture others–to save them from the pain that we inadvertently cause. But God, in his infinite wisdom, doesn’t seem to think that there is a better way. He seems to think that we should try His way. Which leads me again to the conclusion that gospel principles are intricately related–or put another way, the gospel is a compound in one. My commandment to serve necessitates another to learn a lesson in forgiveness. My commandment to learn kindness leads another to patience. Others’ imperfect attempts to live the gospel necessitate more faith on my part. This plan is much messier, and there are some casualties, but I think I would be a much different person without it.