April 2, 2010

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Remember, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish

Patti LambOver the past few months, I have noticed a string of apologies from celebrities in the media.

I thought it was just me noticing a pattern until I saw an infotainment headline that said, “Read up on the Latest A-List Apologies.” Athletes asked pardon for addictions, musicians were sorry for words spoken out of turn and political figures begged forgiveness for corruptness.

As I read down the list of VIP apologies, I found myself becoming critical and judgmental. When others’ secrets were revealed, I was quick to say, “How could he?”

But if my sins were compiled into a list, and I was called to the podium to own up to them, I would grimace in shame and embarrassment. The world would be so disappointed in me.

If we are being truthful with ourselves, I think we would all feel that way. Some of the hurtful things we have done only God may know: Times when we succumbed to temptation, bent the truth, employed manipulative strategies or chose to do nothing when we should have done something. Sometimes the difference between “us” and “them” is that they got caught. But the truth is that we are all sinners.

I think of the public scrutiny and ridicule that Jesus underwent on the path to crucifixion. And he didn’t even do anything. He endured it all, completely innocent, for our sakes.

I think the best we can do to acknowledge his sacrifice is to look at where we are and move forward. We must forgive others, including ourselves.

A beautiful entry from a book titled God Calling comes to mind. It says, “Man is so made that he can carry the weight of 24 hours—no more.”

The passage explains that by insisting to carry the years behind and the days ahead, we weigh ourselves down and break our own backs. God has taken the past from us, yet many of us insist on continuing to carry it. By doing so, we choose to thwart his plan for progress.

As humans, we are not designed to bear the cumulative heartbreak and shame which result from sin. Whether we carry resentment for the hurtful actions of others or guilt and disappointment in our own painful mistakes, it only hurts us.

Instead of beating ourselves—or others—up for lapses in good judgment, a better course of action is to accept forgiveness and make the rest of our life count for good.

My thoughts turn to St. Peter, the rock on whom the Church was built. He was a common fisherman with doubts and fears, which led him to deny Christ three times. I take comfort in knowing that Peter was human and Jesus still picked him to be the Church’s foundation. It makes me feel like there is still hope for me.

Through Peter, I think Christ illustrates that we don’t have to be perfect on the first, second or even third try. Peter was human, and Jesus loved him like a brother.

I also think of St. Paul, one of the Church’s greatest saints, who persecuted Christians before his conversion to Christianity.

These examples demonstrate that it’s not so much about where you have been as where you are going.

A line from one of my favorite movies put it best: “It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.”

Thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice on Good Friday, we have all been given a completely blank slate.

The question remains: How will we finish?

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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