…. I seem to have a knack of getting myself into problems and mistakes, haven't I? I would like to have a better relationship to God, but I don't know if I'm up to it. I know I'm a loser and I'd probably make a [mess] of that too. Anyway, take care of yourself, man. Jim H.
Dear Jim, I'm sorry that I have to shorten your letter drastically. I don't think it necessary or appropriate for everyone to know the details.
Do you like jazz? Someone said to me once that God is a jazz musician! We play a false note, and God improvises around it. God does it so skilfully, he said, that the false note is somehow just the right note. Why do you call yourself a loser? That's other people’s description of you. You told me so in your letter. You’ve come to believe it, and now you repeat it yourself. If you keep looking only at your own performance you will miss the game. Our life is not a game of solitaire: other people have parts to play in it. A culture of pure individualism has nothing left but competition. So it keeps telling us in a thousand ways that winning is what matters, and that losing is a disaster. What a brutal world that is: a world of nothing but competition. No friends. No God. No joy. No jazz. Just me alone. That's much worse than losing. It is missing the game completely.
You can't be a loser with God, unless you walk off the pitch. The first person in the Christian era to make it to paradise was the thief who was crucified with Jesus. Jesus enjoyed the company of sinners and failures and outcasts much more than he enjoyed the company of the religious people of his day. Those Pharisees had set up the rules in such a way that only they could win. He gave them hell (but he didn’t drive them off the pitch). There’s hope for everyone, even for religious people!
You mentioned your interest in making sculptures with scrap metal. I think that is pure poetry, especially in your case. I have a hunch that it’s the way you are going to go. You have been calling yourself scrap, haven't you? You are that scrap metal! Your taking it in hand and making something of it is your spiritual path! This is God calling you. I want to encourage you with all my heart. Did you know that Picasso took a turn with scrap metal? He used to go out to the city dump sometimes and collect pieces of it. He would bring them home and weld them together to make sculptures. You know how the bull seems to be a very strong symbol for Spaniards (something about macho, I suppose). Picasso found the saddle of a bicycle one day and picked it up. Then he found handlebars. He set up the saddle on the wall, nose pointing downwards, and the handlebars overhead! The bull! El torro! Some people might say it was still only scrap metal, but that would be like saying that music is only sound. While remaining scrap, it is also a work of art. Who but Picasso would think of it? God is not only a jazz musician but a sculptor.
Enjoy every minute of it, Jim. Give it your whole heart. It’s your way to God. I can feel for this better than for anything in the world. I trained as a potter many years ago. Clay is like dirt. It is so like dirt that a few well-meaning people cleaned up my workshop, once, while I was away and threw out the clay, thinking it was only rubbish. (In fairness to them, it was clay I had dug myself and it didn’t look smooth and neat like the clay you buy.) Clay is a wonderful substance. So is scrap metal. What wonderful games we play! And God is our most ardent fan!