EVERYTHING belongs. You are perfect, AS you are, NO doing required. YOU are a GIFT, a never seen before and never to be seen again blessing the world needs. These are some sayings I’ve adopted and/or formulated over the last couple of years, which contain an abundance of truth and bring scads of life. What I’m getting at with these is summed up well by one of my favorite authors and speakers, Brené Brown’s book title, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.
Our imperfections are a blessing, in at least two life altering ways. The first is captured by the ensō. An ensō is a circle drawn by hand in one or two brushstrokes, representing perfection, the universe, divine union, enlightenment, beauty, and such. Sometimes people form the ensō as a complete circle, but others they draw it as an open circle. The gap in the ensō symbolizes that change, incompletion, blemishes, and growth are parts of perfection, letting us know (as paradoxical as it might sound) imperfections are essential pieces of perfection and beauty.
(My ensō tat 🙂
The thing is, when we base our core needs of worth, belonging, and/or belovedness on our DOINGS, we will inevitably fail and fall short. Eventually we’ll make a mistake (or a hundred), somebody better will come along, our bodies and minds will grow older and become less “able”, an illness or accident will arise, and so on. What is more, it seems to me there are no true arrivals in life, there’s only the ongoing, beautiful journey. Think of your life as an ensō with the gap. Waiting for the circle to be “completed” is to miss out on all the beauty it already contains. Likewise, living FOR a future perfection/completion isn’t really living at all, while celebrating this imperfect moment, me WITH my bruises, and you MARKED by your wounds makes life a nonstop party of joy and gratitude. I say this a person who had lots of “success” in life, only to lose much of it.
Earlier this century I was in the midst of a really great Air Force career as an officer who not only graduated from our version of Top Gun (the Weapons School), but also had become an instructor there. I was teaching the best of the best and on the fast track when my life fell apart the first time. While I thought things were great with my first wife and that divorce was NOT an option for a “good” Christian couple, it turns out NEITHER of these were true.
To make a long story short, after a year of tears, loss, gain, questions, learning about life and trauma, and deep soul work, I was still on the highway to “success” in the Air Force … only as a single guy. Time passed and I found love again. YET, mere months before we got married, in a freak family hiking accident I slipped and fell 30 feet off a cliff, headfirst onto a boulder. While I should have died, I didn’t (I’m convinced the loving power of God and community saved my life and am writing a book on the topic, but I digress 🙂
While the accident left me “bruised” (my crooked eyes, no peripheral vision, no depth perception, and severe Traumatic Brain Injury, among other things) and I lost my great job (the Air Force medically retired me), I still had my second wife and dreams of being a pastor. To sum up another long story, while I graduated from seminary, working as a pastor at a church in the traditional sense, like I’d envisioned, did NOT work out. What is more, neither did the second marriage.
I share all this because more than anything else, I found my worth, belonging, and belovedness in my career and love life, BOTH of which crashed and burned TWICE! This leads me back to the ensō and the Story of the Prodigal Son. Worth, belonging, and belovedness are core and essential human needs. The more we attach these to our doings, successes, and others, the more stressed, anxious, lonely, insecure, and fearful we become. The gifts of my imperfections, when it comes to careers and love is they’ve allowed me to realize we are worthy, we belong, and we are loved period. AS we are, no doing required. They’re gifts given to us at birth. I bet you’d discover a similar truth in your beautiful imperfections.
The Story of the Prodigal Son is a brilliant illustration of this. In the story the younger son messes everything up, while the elder one does everything right. In the tale, the father represents God, and dramatically communicates an essential, radical, and life changing aspect of Christ’s Good News: While nothing we do wrong could EVER make God love us less, neither could anything we do RIGHT ever make our Creator love us more. We are always and forever emphatically declared to be precious children wildly loved by our Divine Parent. Worth, belonging, and belovedness are all irrevocable gifts bestowed on us from “on high”. I think our imperfections are gifts that give us the ability to realize we are always and forever perfect in the eyes our Creator, our salvation is indeed by grace.
A second blessing of our imperfections is they connect us. They remind us we’re human and are made to do life together. Blemishes make us more relatable. What is more, there’s a book by Henri Nouwen named The Wounded Healer that gets at a powerful truth when it comes to our bruises.
The ways we struggle, the wounds we’ve taken, and our limitations are prime material to be our greatest gifts to others. As we heal these areas they transform into ways we can bless others. For instance, I teach yoga and my vision hampers my balance, while my body hinders my flexibility. These weaknesses make me both more relatable to students, and, as I learn to “compensate” for them, allow me to give better instruction in these areas. Likewise, making sense of, dealing with, and recovering from my epic “failures” in relationships and careers has allowed me to realize it’s better to be connected than correct. They’ve taught me life is about love, people, and Christ. My imperfections are gifts that spur me spread and cultivate community, care, kindness, peace, and awe. What about you?
Grace and peace,