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How dung helps our faith to bloom with abundant flowers

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It's true, even if it doesn't look, smell, or feel pretty ...

The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom.

They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song. The glory of Lebanon will be given to them, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; They will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God.    —    Isaiah 35:1-2

It happens every spring. Just as I’m walking around the neighborhood gleefully absorbing the exquisite sights and smells of sweet Louisiana blooms, I get a whiff of something putrid.

And then I remember.

Dung is used as fertilizer in many gardens here, and my own garden always does best when I buy the soil that is heavily laden with manure.

I don’t know about you, but some days my life feels like a garden that contains more stinkin’ manure than fragrant flowers. There are mistakes that have been made, opportunities missed, and relationships mired in misunderstanding. There are confessions, apologies and desired do-overs. Sometimes the foul smell of the mess seems to completely permeate the air.

And then I remember.

Just as dung helps flowers grow, grace makes the messes in our lives fertile territory for new life. And believing this is precisely what it means to have Easter faith.

Easter faith enables us to see our defects as glorified gashes in our humanity capable of spawning new life. Easter faith challenges us to trust God’s competence more than our own capabilities. Easter faith adjusts the lens of our reality to magnify God’s magnanimous mercy instead of our many mistakes and misgivings.

Easter faith celebrates the truth that God has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. 

It’s still Easter, and we’re challenged anew to believe that the love of God has made up for our sins and shortcomings, and that all we need do is receive his gracious provision as a gift. It’s the season when we’re encouraged to open our misery to mystery, and to embrace the reality that our faults and failures have been nailed to the cross and redeemed. It’s the time of year when we are dared again to walk by faith and not by sight, to forsake our own shortsightedness by welcoming God’s perspective.

What faith basically means is just that this shortfall that we all have in our love is made up by the surplus of Jesus Christ’s love, acting on our behalf. He simply tells us that God himself has poured out among us a superabundance of his love and has thus made good in advance all of our deficiency. Ultimately, faith means nothing other than admitting that we have this kind of shortfall; it means opening our hand and accepting a gift.

Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI), What It Means to Be A Christian

Many of us readily admit our deficiencies, defects and sins. But do we believe that God has “made good in advance all of our deficiency”? And are we ready to receive his gracious gift of redemption?

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said: “The best fortune that can fall to a man is that which corrects his defects and makes up for his failings.” I’d call that fortune grace.  What sweet relief that our “dung,” infused with welcomed grace, is fertile territory where fragrant flowers bloom and give glory to God.

 

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