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Vertrees: Inspiration — whether you need it or not

Carrol Vertrees

Carrol Vertrees

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Updated: April 3, 2014 6:29AM



I am afraid to doze off during the Sunday sermon — I might miss something good. Our minister keeps me awake, almost all of the time.

Last Sunday she repeatedly emphasized that none of us is perfect and may never be. We all need help — that is the theological truth we are supposed to accept. And we should never give up.

There was a lot more, but that was the gist of the message. Part of a stirring triad that hit me in the heart last Sunday. Maybe it all was just a coincidence, but it seemed like more than that.

We may be down only because of our errors, but bad things do happen to good people. Either way, we need help and it is available as we try to get up.

On our living room wall is a big, framed message that says “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” It is a gift from our younger daughter, who I suspect, figures that we would appreciate this artistic call to reason and be encouraged. We thank her. It is what I see every morning when I get up and head for the kitchen and coffee.

I thought of that during the sermon. Then, the third part of my awakening came when Greg, our keyboard maestro, handed me a thick collection of sage sayings from famous people. Surely, I thought, this all is more than a coincidence. Maybe it is aimed at me, trying to give me courage. It worked.

Like this from F. Scott Fitzgerald: “Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.”

And from John Wayne: “Life is getting up one more time when you’ve been knocked down.”

I don’t know, beyond a sincere, tantalizing doubt, that we brought imperfection on ourselves with that Garden of Eden account. I suppose the garden is not a place, but a condition of our humanity. Maybe it was Eve’s fault. Maybe Adam shares the blame.

The serpent, or whatever it was that tempted them, is not something we can see — illustrators don’t know what it is, and we will never know. Whatever it was, it still is.

The reality is, as I heard in the sermon and read on our wall and on the collection Greg gave me, is that we will keep on stumbling no matter how hard we try to be perfect. That is what makes us human.

Babe Ruth, the Sultan of Swat, had this to say about it: “You just can’t beat the person who won’t give up.” That is a theological home run.

We are supposed to be ourselves and stop trying to emulate others. Anne Quindlen wrote that “The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.”

Hear this from Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”

I do not begin to comprehend the deeper meanings of theology. But it seems to me that no matter what our theological depth is, we should try to understand that there is a power greater than us. Maybe if I continue to stay awake — it is hard for a guy as old as I — some deep truth will seep into my soul and brain. At last.

And it is good to laugh at ourselves, even others, as this comment by Kurt Vonnegut emphasizes: “True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.”

We should loosen up a bit.

And I should remember what that wall decoration tells me about rising after a fall.



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