Years ago my [first] husband gave me a Venus comb murex shell. It was so beautiful, so perfect, I couldn’t even look at it. It wasn’t until the brass stand on which it stood tarnished that I was able to look right at it and accept that it was mine.
A similar thing happened when my mother-in-law gave me a little ceramic rabbit with one tall ear erect. One day it fell over, breaking the ear off at its base. I glued them together and then, when it wasn’t perfect, I could let it into my life.
Perfection. I long for it and delight in it. But when it is offered me, it makes me nervous and I reject it–because I am imperfect and feel unworthy of perfection. All my life I have passed on to others gifts I have been given, the ones I treasure the most–just like my mother did.
And because I know I will spoil, ruin, destroy it. I cannot receive it unless/until it is flawed.
And yet I long for perfection.
I think maybe everything we do here is connected to the relentless pursuit of perfection:
We try to make this world or at least our own world perfect (in accord with our own definition of perfection) by:
–dusting and mopping with a vengeance.
–nagging, bullying, or bossing, try to banish imperfection from others.
–punish imperfection (even in ourselves) by criticizing, complaining and condemning. How many times have we responded to a compliment by pointing out a flaw?
Or we settle for and get comfortable with imperfection, becoming slobs. Or we give up, sinking into depression, becoming indifferent to the possibility of beauty, joy, and justice.
Or take sides with imperfection, contributing our own verbal or visual pollution–trash, graffiti, slurs, hatred. Or take revenge against it, showing by criminal behavior our contempt for it–which is really disappointment.
Or we pretend things are perfect.
In so many different ways we each respond to thorns, dents, delays, dust, crashes (computer as well as car), broken dolls, slow drivers, burnt food, irritating neighbors–not to mention the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. . . whips and scorns of time, the oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely, the pangs of despised love, the law’s delay, the insolence of office, and the spurns that patient merit of the unworthy takes”–in short, the “moths, rust and thieves” of life, everything from zits to cancer, typos to global warming, racism, and nuclear proliferation. Things we can’t stand but can’t do much if anything about. We are reacting to imperfection almost every moment of every day.
Despair over this twisted world and our inability to fix it can be the beginning of a powerful paradigm shift. Imperfection was a possibility programmed into a perfectly designed universe, a possibility dependent on our response to a variable, free will. By choosing self–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–by choosing NOT-GOD, our first parents brought a curse, a limp, a withering, a meanness, not only upon themselves but (as all that we were to become was contained within them) all of us and upon the earth itself. In Out of the Silent Planet, C.S. Lewis referred to a race of “bent creatures. . . full of fears.”
Jesus Christ came to straighten the bentness but not in the way we expected. He did not come to make major repairs to the purring car because it was now running out of control. Our choices had redirected it over a cliff and it would have to be replaced by a new one. He did not invest his heart in this imperfect world system. Although he had no illusions that it could be permanently cured, he was–is–constantly redeeming it, one person and relationship and miracle at a time: Forgive. Love your enemies. Repent. Believe in Me. Go and sin no more.
He overcame this broken world by dying and resuming life on a different dimension to break its hold on us. He calls each of us into that new dimension even while we exist within the old, imperfect one. When the car goes over the cliff, we will keep on purring. He urges us to bring as many others with us as will come. His promised return is our assurance that imperfection will soon be swallowed up in perfect justice, completion, significance and righteousness.