This past summer I stayed on a farm for a week. I have spent my life in cities or suburbs and know little of how farms really operate. But much of my life is spent on proving how capable I am in every area I try. My competence and my success far too often define who I am.
On one of my first mornings on the farm, I collected eggs with a wonderful young man named Michael, who happens to be mentally handicapped. I volunteered to help collect eggs because I thought of all the farm chores, it sounded like something easy and something at which I could feel competent. I wasn't. Instead I slipped on the hen house steps in my unfamiliar rubbers boots, didn't see some of the eggs in the coops and hesitated to push my hand in under the hens to feel around for eggs. Michael was a very patient teacher and repeated everything for me. The nervous birds surrounded us and pecked at our jeans while I tried to look very, very cool.
When we had filled our buckets with eggs, we walked together up to the workshop where the eggs were cleaned and sorted by size and put into cartons for sale. Several of us lined up to clean the eggs and I, still striving to be competent, wanted to make sure Michael and the others understood that I had learned all they had taught me and was now competent in this area, too. As I washed the first egg, I scrubbed the dirt off harder than the egg could take it and it broke in my hand. I was more gentle with the next one and handed it down the assembly line but a third one slipped and broke. And another...and another. "Don't worry," Michael reassured me. "Breaking them is all a part of the job."
Michael had no idea how much he was really teaching me about my own life. He was so much more comfortable than I was with my incompetence and with the literal brokenness in my life. I was the only defining myself by how much of a success I was at collecting and washing eggs or any of the other farm chores I struggled with that week. He taught me that brokenness is "all a part of the job"
I realized in my time on the farm how much more I could accept myself if I didn't try to be perfect. When I let go of the concept of being only capable and successful, I was able to accept that being broken is just a part of the life I lead here on this earth. It's the kind of very human life Jesus was born into - one less perfect and one that asks us to accept ourselves as Jesus does, with all of our dirt, cracks and imperfections.
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