A spiritual teacher had lost the key to his house and was looking for it on the lawn outside, running his fingers through each blade of grass. His disciples came along and asked the master what had happened. “I have lost the key to my house,” he said. 

“Can we help you find it?” they asked. “I’d be delighted!” he replied. 

With that the disciples got down on their hands and knees beside him and started running their fingers through the grass too. After some hours, one of them asked, “Master, have you any idea where you might have lost the key?” 

He answered, “Yes, of course. I lost it in the house.” The disciples looked at one another in astonishment. “Then why are we looking for it out here?”  They exclaimed.  The master replied, “Because there is more light out here!”

This parable speaks to our human condition. Many of us have lost the key to happiness and we settle for much less – less joy – less meaning – less purpose – than God wishes for us. 

AND we are looking for it outside ourselves where it cannot possibly be found. We search outside because it is easier or more pleasant; there appears to be more light there and more company, because everyone else is trying to do the same thing. 

Think of all the late-night infomercials selling potions, programs and machines that promise to make us into hard-bodied, clear skinned, giggling millionaires. They appear as lighted paths to fulfillment but never deliver.

These voices outside of us are much easier to hear than the one of God that speaks within us…the voice of our maker…the voice of the author of love who calls each of us “my beloved.”  God designed us and knows exactly the proper fuel we need. God knows us better than we know ourselves and knows better how to achieve our true happiness and fulfillment than even we do! 

“So, our real challenge is not to ‘find God’ so to speak through things like prayer and service and such, but rather the true beginning of our path towards God is coming to the deep awareness that God desires to find each of us.”[1]

Our 2000-year-old (plus) tradition really has only one message, and it is this: No matter who you are, what you believe, what you have done, if you go to church or not, you ARE loved by God. You are loved.  There is little you can do about that, in fact, there is NOTHING you can do about that. It is simply not in your power to change God’s love for you. It is impossible, like turning off the sun.

“Simply put, God desires for us to be the persons we were created to be: to be purely ourselves. Whether we are rich or poor, young or old, man or woman, straight or gay: all of us are called to our own brand of personal holiness. Everyone’s true self is a unique creation of God’s, and the way to real and lasting fulfillment in life is to become the unique self that God wishes us to be.”[2] 

And this holiness begins with ACCEPTANCE – by loving and accepting ourselves as we are and not as we think we should be.  That means ALL of yourself, even the parts that you wish weren’t there, the parts that you wish God hadn’t made, the parts that you think are broken.  God loves us like a parent loves a child—often more for the parts of the child that are weaker or where the child struggles or falters. More often than not, those very weaknesses are the most important paths to holiness, because they remind us of our reliance on God.

Our imperfections are not inadequacies; but rather reminders that we’re all “in this together.” [3] God doesn’t love us despite our faults and failures – but rather works in and through them to bring about the kingdom.[4]

In closing…a little story. A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on one end of the pole he carried across the back of his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream, the cracked pot arrived only half full. This went on every day for two years, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots of water to his master’s house.

Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishment and saw itself as perfectly suited for the purpose for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its imperfection and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived as bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself and I want to apologize to you.”

“Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?” “For the past two years, I have been able to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws you have to work without getting the full value of your efforts,” the pot said.

The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and out of compassion he said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.” Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the wildflowers on the side of the path. The pot felt cheered.

But at the end of the trail, the pot still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and again it apologized for its failure. The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I knew about your flaw and took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them for me. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. If you were not just the way you are, he would not have such beauty to grace his house.

NOTE: I think I snagged the opening parable from Fr. Ron Rolheiser, but I really can’t remember. Sounds like him though 🙂 So, we will just give him credit! (Might be John Shea though.) AND the closing parable I think comes from Fr. Mark Link, S.J. Sorry that I’m not sure on these things! I’ve been telling these stories for over 25 years and have simply forgotten where I heard them first. Also, the first chapter in Peter van Breemen’s book As Bread That is Broken is entitled “The Courage to Accept Acceptance” and is brilliant. Though not quoted above, the book was formative for me.

[1] Fr. James Martin, S.J. paraphrase

[2] Fr. James Martin, S.J.

[3] Dr. Brene Brown

[4] Maria Boulding, OSB, A Gateway to Hope

Further reading:

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