When talking to young people, especially college students or recent high school graduates, the one common struggle that they seem to have is the realization that the world is not perfect and not what they expected it to be — and many times, not fair. Some will go into depression, stuck behind the veil of cynicism, or try their hardest to change the system to what they think will be a perfect world or what it should be. Nevertheless, many have missed the exact reality of what our world is actually is — it is imperfect. While I am not saying that we should give up nor try our best to make a better world, the greatest lesson to learn in life is to embrace imperfections. Spiritually speaking, too, it is important for every Christian to understand the interplay between sin and grace, our imperfections and the need for conversion. It is, in a way, an embrace of the creative tension that exists after the Fall of our original parents, Adam and Eve, so that we can rise above it to live for Christ.
The world is not perfect, nor are we. Perhaps we have tried too much to shelter our children from the imperfections of this world. We have tried very hard to make their childhood perfect and positive for them. We have done our best to encourage and make all things work for them. Many of them had perhaps grown up in a rosy and protective environment where everything is possible if I want and set my heart to it because their parents made a lot of sacrifices to make those things possible behind the scene for them. Nevertheless, the world is not perfect.
Even in our own backyard, we have many people who are struggling to get by. We might see it or feel pity, sorry for them, or even somewhat can empathize with them, but we often leave people where they are in order to focus on our own livelihood and goals. Poverty is real in America, but we have not seen a widespread level of poverty here where it becomes an important and real part of the communal and social ethos. On top of that, our current first-world, western society lacks the communal identity and fabric it once had as the instant gratification, consumeristic, technological and social media advances made us into a selfie generation that tends to focus on the individual selves, benefits, and needs. As we isolate ourselves from the world and does not see the big, worldwide picture of what actually goes on, we become more anxious and worried when things do not go our particular way.
When the ego loses control and does not get what it thought things would be, it drives the psyche into depression and cynicism because it is scared of being fragile or vulnerable. We have lacked the social consciousness to educate and open our young people up to how reality really is. Perhaps we have always been taught that we can change things around if we fix our hearts on the desired goals while many people who are living around the world, for better or worst, have come to the acceptance that there are some things that will remain as they are. Perhaps they have been introduced and seen imperfections from of young that they learn to cope or embrace them well, while our American young people would go into shock or disbelief! We have been told and have become a “fixer” society. We think that it is our job to fix things, and we have done just that with our international political policies, making (sometimes, forcing) everyone like or depend on us. Nevertheless, we have seen in history that we, through our own faulted “good intention” have introduced a perverted understanding of imperialism, by taking away people’s history, ancestry, heritage, and uniqueness in making them like us. We have destroyed many beautiful things because we only think that our way is the only way that is perfect and workable for all. We never actually learn from other people nor willing to embrace the way that they deal with imperfections because we cannot stand them and have to fix them. Yet, imperfections are part of life and our history.
Of course, we should all try our best to better our society with proper discernment, patience, and growth in the wisdom that is able to respond to what is going on instead of simply reacting or trying to sell our particular ideologies. We need to make decisions that are grounded in history and common wisdom and for the generations to come instead of what is beneficial for us right now. It is important for us to have a sense of inter-generational solidarity, accountability, and responsibility instead of immediate, particular, or contemporaneous benefits alone.
This is perhaps the greatest thing for many post-modern, pragmatic people to understand. Christian hope is paradoxical because it is existentially real, but it does not point to something in this world as the criterion and standard of judgment, but by pointing us toward a higher reality of what the world really is. Our hope is real because we are sure of where it comes from and Who is with us. It is the surest sign of victory and joy for those who believe. Pope Francis wrote in his encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), of this paradoxical surety:
“Nobody can go off to battle, unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle… Christian triumph is always a cross, yet a cross which is at the same time a victorious banner borne with aggressive tenderness against the assaults of evil. The evil spirit of defeatism is brother to the temptation to separate, before its time, the wheat from the weeds; it is the fruit of anxious and self-centered lack of trust.” (nos. 84-86)
We have to be convinced that the Lord is in control. We are strengthened and grounded in hope because we believe in Him! Just as He is victorious over death in embracing and transforming the Cross from an instrument of torture and humiliation to the sign of salvation, we know that He is able to bring all things toward fulfillment for those who trust in Him. The greatest lesson for us to learn is to let go of our control and let Him be in control as we choose to live and become instrumental in His divine providence for all. Our anxiety and its depressive end spring from our lack of trust in the Lord as we tend to become focused and dependence on our self-created abilities to fix all things. Yet, we cannot!
It is He who can separate the weeds from the wheat in due time, and until that happens according to His infinite wisdom and divine providence, we have to embrace the imperfections that exist and coincide with the blessings given. Every time we do the Sign of the Cross, we cross our own “I” as we ask God the Father to opens our mind to His will, the Lord Jesus to strengthen our love and commitment for Him, and the Holy Spirit to transform our burdens and struggles with His sanctifying grace. Every time we sign ourselves with the sign of our salvation, we ask the Trinity to strengthen us both body and soul as we continue to grow in our faith, grounded in hope, trusting that the He is in control. We cannot give into despair because we do not get things our ways or because we are hurt by the imperfections of this world.
We are called to see things as they are and to prayerfully grow in trust as we believe and hope in the Lord. That faith and hope teach us to properly discern with prudence and wisdom that come from our personal encounters and communal responsibilities that are grounded in divine truth. We respond with practical and prudential hope as we communally discern through and with perennial, scriptural, and divine wisdom. And for our personal weaknesses and doubts, we trust that God can work through and with our imperfections. I would like to leave you with the words of Saint Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. May we not lose hope nor be locked in our own self-created despair, cynicism, lack of trust in the Lord but to fix our eyes on Him and fight the battle well.
“That I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (12:7-10)