Ruined for Life

The Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) has as its informal slogan “Ruined for Life”. I love that phrase and appreciate that many of us are “ruined for life” without ever having been in JVC. What I like about the phrase is how amazingly intentional they are about creating a process of alienation in which a person with privilege is given an experience of what life is like for the poor. After getting to know individual men, women, and children who are poor, a ruined person will forever choke on foie gras and champagne. We are ruined because we can no longer settle for merely ensuring the well-being of our own circle of friends and family while we engage in charity on the side. As ruined people, our circle of care has expanded to include the marginalized, and we can only be content when each child of God has access to food, shelter, education and meaningful work. Which means we can never be content. We are ruined.

Being ruined hurts. Like most spiritual processes, being ruined is not a once-in-a-life-time event. It happens again and again. Sometimes we go in with eyes open, as with JVC. Other times it catches us by surprise:

I woke up this morning feeling sad and alone, feeling that no-one understands what I’m talking about or writing about these days – not really. I was discouraged by my city’s (Seattle’s) way of responding to the crisis of homelessness. I felt irritable about the Bible study I went to last night. I couldn’t bring myself to go to Quaker Meeting this morning because I was sure I wouldn’t connect with anyone, and I was ready to write off liberal Quakerism altogether.  After I had persuaded myself that none of my friends are with me on my current exploration of abundance and gratitude, I talked myself into believing that my husband doesn’t understand my musings about the graces I receive at the Recovery Cafe, either.

When I had written everyone off, I reminded myself not to engage in self-pity but to look for something for which to be grateful, of which there ought to be plenty since we all are enfolded by God’s abundance. Then I could see clearly again, and I saw the multitude of people I know and people I have not yet met who have been ruined for life. I knew that I have just been “ruined for life” all over again.

For that I am truly grateful. Therein lies hope, because compassion grows forth from the ruins of people like you and me.

Query for prayerful consideration:

When I feel alienated from everyone and everything, where do I find hope?

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