Living & Growing: I can be an imbecile

Living & Growing: I can be an imbecile

I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time.

Take dinner the other night.

There is always an element of adventure in our meals, but the kids have now developed the new game “root roulette” where they guess the poisonous root that mom accidentally put in the casserole.

In my defense, it was mixed in with my heritage carrots that come in all shapes and colors. Luckily it was nasty enough that we didn’t eat it, but I got a crash course on hemlock. It wasn’t hemlock, which is why I can joke about it now, but it was cow parsnip hiding in my carrots. I probably should not be trusted to garden when I’m too lazy to weed.

Or take last Sunday when we invited all the churches to come hang out to eat and play games or instruments. I didn’t really have a plan or outline for the evening. There was no litmus test at the door to see if folks should be there or not. A whole slew of people came from a variety of churches. We ate barbecued chicken, played some games, shared some music, and called it a night.

I’m not sure there were any great revelations or that the 40 Christian congregations in Juneau are suddenly singing Kum Ba Yah together, but it seemed faithful to chip away at some walls and break bread together.

I learned some important things about myself.

1. I’m loud when I play games. That might have been jarring to some of our guests to hear me screaming while playing Mad Gabs.

2. I don’t always like people I’m called to love. I probably shouldn’t admit this but there are some folks who I find more interesting than others and there are some people I find annoying and needy.

But, I actually believe this Jesus stuff and that life is richer when I love as I am loved. And I know myself well enough to know I too can be annoying and rub people wrong. That’s the gift of the song All God’s Creatures Got a Place in the Choir. It’s my mantra when I am losing my patience with someone and it reminds me to appreciate the voice they add to the choir.

3. Encountering people is serendipitous and I find myself falling in love with folks I might have missed. As the evening was winding up, a crew of teens, friends and Rev. Mark Boesser gathered at a table to sing. It was a beautiful communion. The mix of ages, backgrounds and voices were a witness to what the church can be.

I was going to call myself an idiot for so often being clueless; it feels like I should know what I’m doing by now. I’m not a big fan of the word “idiot” so I settled for “imbecile” instead.

I can be an imbecile and this might be my new favorite word. The etymology of the word dates back to mid-16th century France where it meant “without a supporting staff.”

Here’s the last thing I learned about myself: I’m not an imbecile for all the times I don’t know what I’m doing. I am an imbecile when I don’t know what I’m doing, but in my arrogance pretend like I do and refuse to ask for help.

Those times when I’m willing to try something new and risk looking like a fool are actually some of the loveliest, most faithful moments of my life. They are the times where I lay down some control and depend on a “supporting staff.” It’s where I recognize my limits and find my way with a walking stick, a guide, or a friend. I’m an imbecile when as an individual, or an individual church, we think we can go it alone.


• Tari Stage-Harvey is pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.


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