Sin and the art of archery

I’ve been thinking Really Deep Thoughts lately, in between getting annoyed about life and things I can’t do anything about. I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the things that make me annoyed and why they annoy me.

I wrote a few days ago in the comments at retired eagle’s photo blog that I was guilty of the sin of accidie, one of the medieval Seven Deadly sins. It’s basically despair and depression, and it’s something I’ve been guilty of intermittantly since I was about six years old. I know how awful that sounds and I can tell you how often people have told me I should count my blessings etc, but it doesn’t make any diference.

The English word SIN is actually a term taken from archery, that oh-so-English art. Think Agincourt, think Robin Hood: the bow is so entrenched in English lore that even today it’s technically illegal to play football on  Sunday if your parish priest has not excused you from longbow practise. Sin simply means failing to hit the target. It means being less than perfect. It doesn’t mean you’re  a criminal, or an evil person; it just means you need more practise to get it right.

This I find comforting. It also means I need more help to get it right. It doesn’t mean I need to be beaten for getting it wrong and missing the target. Imagine God as a loving archery instructor, standing close as you draw the bow, his hand steadying yours, whispering in your ear, “Bit higher, bit further up, hold it steady. Now!”

You see, it upsets me when people assume that their success in life is as a result of God blessing them, because it then implies the opposite: lack of success is God witholding his blessing. It upsets me when people take their health as a sign God is favouring them because that then says that ill health is God punishing them.

Being alive is our blessing. Life is our gift. I’m not saying that God isn’t blessing you when things go well. He might be. But God has no favourites. Blessing or cursing, it may be the same thing when you step out of time and out of being human. Go read the Book of Job if you have never done so. It might be a bit of a puzzle. It opens up ineffable mysteries(because we don’t effin’ well understand them) about God and his relationship with humans. I have no answers to this.

But for me, today, being a sinner is a good thing. It means I have room for improvement. It means I need to keep practising and spending time with my trainer, and learning more and more how to hit the target. When I get good at that, I guess he’ll just move the target further away to test my skill further, or give me a different bow, or change the parameters in some way. There is always room for improvement, when we realise that sin is not the thing we were taught it was by people who didn’t understand it themselves.