Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!


Job 37: 14-18:

“Hear this, O Job; stop and consider the wondrous works of God. 15Do you know how God lays his command upon them, and causes the lightning of his cloud to shine? 16Do you know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of the one whose knowledge is perfect, 17you whose garments are hot when the earth is still because of the south wind? 18Can you, like him, spread out the skies, hard as a molten mirror?"

Perfection. God is making it pretty clear to Job in this passage that the only place around the joint capable of perfection is God.

Yet...how many times do we personally get hung up on "Being perfect?"

I will be the first to tell you that I spent a lot of my younger years shooting for perfection.

I wanted to be the valedictorian of my high school class. (I wasn't. I was #4 in a class of 113. This was because I had to make a value judgement a couple times in school to take the "harder" class because I needed it, vs. an "easier" one to pad my grade. I discovered years later that the "real" valedictorian in our class often deliberately chose the latter over the former. I at least had the satisfaction I had made the "gutsy" choice, even if I "lost" as a result of it.)

I wanted to graduate summa cum laude from college. I didn't. (Magna cum laude.)

In the middle of my family's codependent dysfunction, I strove to be "the perfect child," "the family favorite" to avoid ridicule, shame, and abuse. (It didn't work.)

Guess what? I survived anyway, despite being imperfect, sometimes even thriving despite imperfection living next to me.

Yet, I catch myself, at times when I am not feeling so comfortable in my own skin, trying to be "perfect" in an attempt to self-justify I'm okay. I still like being the first person to tell someone "Happy birthday/Merry Christmas/Happy New Year." I shovel the church sidewalks in the winter, and suddenly it's not about just shoveling the sidewalks, it's about ours looking better than First Methodist and First Christian churches. I still like making the "big diagnosis."

Now, sometimes I get that way just for sheer entertainment. But when I am not totally feeling up to snuff about myself, I catch myself doing it because I NEED to feel that way.

This is a tad paradoxical. I'm perfectly content with my physical imperfections. I don't mind my minimally chipped tooth (even had my crown deliberately chipped a hair to match the real one), being gray doesn't bother me the least, being a plain dresser and having very plain looks doesn't faze me. My attitude about these things is "Screw it. If you don't like me the way I am, you can just go to Hell."

But my PSYCHOLOGICAL imperfections or my COGNITIVE imperfections...now that's another story.

I confess I sort of like being "the smartest person in the room" or "the toughest person in the room," or the "most serious person in the room," or the "funniest person in the room," depending on the venue. When I am in a room full of people where there seems to be no real line of control or authority, it is my tendency to assume that control, or assert that authority.

These things are not all bad. The good side of it is that is what we sort of look for in "natural born leaders." But the flip side can be devastating. It can create lines of control when none is really needed. It can start the chain reaction to what I find is one of my most repeatable sins...the sin of how "pervasive perfection"--a need to control a situation in a way that conceals the secrets of our own flaws--takes over and replaces our true selves with a myth of ourselves--and we start to think we are "disappointing others." We can no longer live up to our self-imposed expectations. We often blame others for that imperfection within ourselves, when in reality we are mostly fearful of disappointing the myth we created for ourselves.

Those lines get a little blurry in the day-to-day of real life. We all do it. Something's not right about us, and our need is to be a little more loved by those around us. So we try to be "perfect" in some way, in the hopes that will get us noticed and positively stroked. Taken to an unhealthy degree, it's the currency of codependency. Even in a healthy venue, it's simply a way we create a persona that we think has the potential to be loved better than our normal flawed one.

But here is one of those Very Big Realizations I have now and then (that I never ever call "epiphanies", because, as you know, I don't have epiphanies, only prophets have epiphanies ): The people who love us--TRULY love us--love us not because of our perfection, but because of our IMperfections. The love comes from our flaws in our own secret hearts linking to the flaws in the secret hearts of others. When we are the angels in the lives of others, we are not loved for our wings and white robes. We're loved for our rusty, bent halos. We're loved for the things we did DESPITE our nature. We're loved for that moment of "Aw, shucks, you got me." We're loved for our changes of heart when we had no reason to change them but sheer grace.

This might be the part we never quite get, when we try to have a loving relationship with God. We get hung up on God's perfection and our lack of it. Sure, God digs it when we try to imitate him. But when we actually start to think we can actually ATTAIN it, that actually separates us from God. We forget that He comes to where we live, and to who we are--flaws and all. He MADE us flawed. He KNEW that from the get-go...and he's okay with it.

I always think about how we have the Genesis story all screwed up about that tree of knowledge of good and evil. The standard version of the story is we were all perfect till Eve screwed us all over because she was beguiled by a serpent. I think the story is more about the things we all know are inside ourselves and are going to take a bite of sooner or later--that this tree just simply represents a branch of our own humanity. We eat from a lot of trees. The tree of "self vs. others." The tree of "happy vs. sad." The tree of "hungry/thirsty vs. sated."

In that, God--and those who matter to us--love us for as much of what we're not as for what we are.

4 comments:

I think the concept of perfection is a bit sterile and "western." Seeing the world linearly with end points. I prefer to think more eastern, yin/yang, balance, harmony...

"Perfection" means the see-saw is stuck in one position and that is really out of alignment.

Further perfect according to whom?

Ultimately (IMHO)it boils down to a variation of control issues and anxiety.

For example, rushing the podium to say, "Don't worry, I'm in charge!" like Alexander Haig (was it?) when perhaps everyone else is perfectly content with the mulling chaos...

Are you an Enneagram 1 by the way?

Oddly enough, I'm a 2 with a heavy overlay of 5. I just guess if creating order is the help, that's what I do.

Well, in light of other stories you've shared, being a 2 makes a lot of sense - you need to feel needed and you are good at sensing what people need.

I love this essay. It's so imperfect.

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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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