Imperfect people in an imperfect world

The Rev Tim Smith, pastor at Hele Road Baptist Church in Torquay. Photo: Contributed

The Rev Tim Smith, pastor at Hele Road Baptist Church in Torquay. Photo: Contributed - Credit: Archant

“The kiss of the sun for pardon, the song of the birds for mirth, one is nearer God's heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth.”   
Those are the words of English poet Dorothy Frances Gurney, although I’m not sure she would feel quite so close to the Lord in our garden.  
Many peoples’ outdoor spaces have wonderful features, such as a rockery or a fishpond; the main feature in ours would seem to be weeds. And the attraction of our garden was further diminished recently by the addition of the frame and headboard of a single bed!   
Venturing out of the front gate one morning, I noticed that someone had, under the cover of darkness, dumped their unwanted piece of bedroom furniture over our front wall, and there it was, nestling amongst the dandelions and nettles.  
What a cheek! Why would anyone consider doing such a thing? This wasn’t someone carelessly discarding their unwanted crisp wrapper.   
Whoever had chucked their old bed over our front wall had taken the time to think about how and where and when they were going to pass the responsibility for recycling their property from themselves, to me.   
According to a recent newspaper report, fly-tipping is an increasing occurrence, wherever you live. In 2020, local authorities in England had to deal with nearly one million incidents of fly-tipping; anything from old car tyres or unwanted televisions to dilapidated wardrobes and broken bikes.   
Earlier this month, East Hertfordshire council successfully prosecuted an individual for dumping a big blue boat in a layby! 
There’s a word that came to my mind as I reflected on such inconsiderate human behaviour – disillusionment. According to the Oxford Concise Dictionary, disillusionment is the disappointment that you feel when you realise that something, or someone, is not as good as you had expected or thought.  
American internet blogger Nicole Bedford suggests that it is in our childhood where we first have our illusions shattered, observing that: “We grew up in a world of magic where, when we lost a tooth, a fairy would come and collect it and leave us money. A portly older man with a beard as white as snow would leave us our hearts desire under the Christmas tree in exchange for milk and cookies. Until we found out it was all a lie. Quixotic tales our parents told us turn to ash and we grow up feeling disillusioned and short-changed.”   
Reality puncturing our overblown illusions, especially when it comes to people, is part of daily living we all need to come to terms with.  
A conversation I had with a friend recently revealed him to be disillusioned with his new job – it wasn’t as he had been promised. Having worked and worshipped in a number of churches over the years, I confess that disillusionment can be commonplace, because my expectation of followers of Jesus is that they will be more like the One they profess to follow, than in reality they often are.   
But I’m also forced to confront the painful truth that all too often, I also shatter the illusions of others, with careless speech and thoughtless behaviour.   
The apostle Paul, in his New Testament letter to Roman Christians, expresses personal disillusionment at his own less than perfect behaviour: “I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. What a wretched man I am!” 
Elsewhere in his epistles, Paul urges believers, with the help of the divine patience that is available through the Holy Spirit, not to allow the all-too-obvious imperfections of one another to destroy their relationships.   
“Bear with each other” he writes, in Colossians 3:13, “always being ready to forgive if you have a difference with anyone, just as God has forgiven you.”   
According to pastor and author Jeff Lucas, coming to terms with the deficiencies of daily life, and the failings of others, is an important step on the road to maturity. “I no longer fear disillusionment,” writes Lucas. “Instead, I embrace it, lest I, a broken person, walk around a broken planet surrounded by broken people – with my eyes wide shut.”