Last week I had to do some plumbing in the house. It involved sweating a new section of pipe and joints for my washer hookup. As I was preparing the replacement pipe, I had to scrape the ends of the new pipe to accept the solder with a harsh wire brush. I thought it was interesting that the copper was pristine when I bought it, but in order to get the solder to work properly, I needed to scuff it up. If I didn’t, I ran the risk that the pipe would not properly join with the fitting and leak.
This made me think about life. Often we think that it needs to be pristine and perfect. We chafe at our imperfections, we lament our sorrows. If we were the copper pipe, we would get mad that someone took our perfect exterior and scratched it up. We fail to realize that without that we would not be able to perform at a level we were made for.
Talking about this with Nathan the word ‘acceptance’ came up. The pipe must accept the scuffing. The imperfections caused by the scuffing allow it to accept the solder.
Sometimes we talk about acceptance like it means resignation. “We just have to accept, our lot in life”. Other times we talk of acceptance in a way of “acknowledgment”, where we merely recognize a fact that we don’t like.
Looking at the history of the word accept, it gives some more insight.
late 14c., “to take what is offered; admit and agree to (a proposal, etc.),” from Old French accepter (14c.) or directly from Latin acceptare “take or receive willingly,” frequentative of accipere “receive, get without effort,” from ad “to” (see ad-) + capere “to take” (from PIE root *kap- “to grasp”). Related: Accepted; accepting.
I particularly like the meaning “to receive willingly”. I think it strikes an interesting contrast to the aforementioned connotations. Willingly receiving them seems at odds with a nihilism that comes from resigning ourselves. Furthermore, mere acknowledgment of inconvenient facts does not feel like receiving them.
In the end both of those attitudes mean that we are still holding on to the idea that we can be or are perfect. The later acknowledges the fact rationally, but rejects it emotionally. The former recognizes the fact with emotional despair at “what could have been”, failing to understand it is a fantasy. Either way we withhold a part of us from willingly receiving a truth about ourselves.
From here I think there are two ways to go on. The first is to accept, and indulge in our weaknesses. If we are to willingly receive them, then should we not jump into them with both feet? At the risk of belaboring the metaphor, wouldn’t that be like taking a belt sander to the pipe and sanding entire holes into it? Clearly putting holes into the pipe would be at odds with it’s purpose.
What this view gets wrong is that weakness is undesirable. I didn’t scuff my pipe to make it weaker. I did it so that it would be prepared to become stronger. But what do our imperfections allow us to accept? Christ said:
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
If we never felt imperfect, jolted, or scuffed, would we ever feel the need for His help? And like the pipe, when we are ready, we can accept His influence, allowing us to become strong, and fulfill our purposes. Indeed we will be able to meet purposes greater than we could alone.
We don’t get away from this world unscuffed. Imagining (emotionally or rationally) we could is holding a belief counter to truth and reality. Indulging in our imperfections also turns us away from our purpose. Rather only by accepting the fact that we are scuffed, and experience imperfections both in our mind and heart are we able to proceed with the humility required to overcome them.