Some ten years ago I knitted this ‘coat of many colours’ for my mother. It was a huge hit! She loved it, wore it whenever the weather was cold enough and took many complements. I can guarantee there is not another the same anywhere!
Now that she has left us, it has returned to my care – in remarkably good condition considering its mileage; except for an unexplained large hole in the back yoke. What a pity! Mum’s darning skills were top league. So sad I didn’t learn from her. I can hear her tut-tutting over my cobbled up repair – but at least the scar is nearly lost among those vibrant colours.
It set me thinking about the spiritual holes in our lives – caused by sin. To talk about evil is culturally unfashionable now. In his searching book, People of the Lie, the American psychiatrist Scott Peck tells how his young son defined evil as ‘live’ spelled backwards. So true. Evil is anti-life and can decimate relationships.
Christianity teaches that we live in a fallen world and all mess up. St Benedict quickly discovered this truth as he and his followers attempted to live in community. His Rule had to start from people as they were rather than from any sort of fake idealism. He found among the obedient and patient also the careless, stubborn, slothful, disdainful and those with a tendency to get in the way (chapter 2). Like the average church congregation?
Recently, in preparation for my first confession before confirmation into the catholic church, I had to think soberly about the mistakes, flaws, holes – oh lets call them by their name – sins in my life.
The need to engage with the sacrament of reconciliation for the first time became massive in my mind. I discussed my anxieties with my sponsor, who reassured by saying it was like when her husband got worked up about towing their first caravan from Huddersfield to Leeds. As time went by it grew in his imagination to the size of the QE 2! Come collection day, there before him was their Sprite Alpine caravan, the size of a ‘matchbox’!
In a letter to Mary Van Deusen in 1953, CS Lewis said ‘most of us have never faced the facts about ourselves until we uttered them aloud in plain words.’ I can only say that first confession was a similar experience for me. I have felt guilty about the spiritual holes in my life for years. Saying them out loud to a priest has helped me to take responsibility for them and gain a new sense of forgiveness.
Calling sin by its name is the first step. The second is to own the holes it makes in our lives, in the fabric of our families and in community. Some scars can be mended but others will remain. The third step is to accept the free and full forgiveness offered by God through the sacrifice of His Son.