In orthodox Christian circles, some say that the Devil, originally one of the angels, rebelled against God because he couldn't tolerate the idea of God incarnating as a human being. The perfect becoming imperfect? The omniscient, omnipotent God somehow choosing to step down...down...down and losing all that wonderful power? Living out humility first hand?
It was too base even to contemplate, too excruciatingly limited, too horribly demeaning. Become a servant, for God's sake? NO! said the Devil. Not now. Not EVER! If that is God's way I will go my OWN way! Power, perfection, and the perfecting of power are the only important things.
Okay,okay. I know some of you are rolling your eyes with this God and Devil talk. But whether of not you "believe in" the Devil, or even God, this can still be a parable about a different kind of power, the power of accepting imperfection and limitedness.
Author, poet and psychotherapist Lawrence Tirnauer notes that: "In this culture power is often seen as having a confrontive or macho quality. Western culture emphasizes a kind of mastery and perfectionism. In the Orient power is often related to the ability to be flexible and yielding. There, incompleteness and imperfection are often more highly valued as an inherent part of the nature of the human condition, if not the very nature of the universe."
What was it Jesus said? "Let the powerful and arrogant, those who have the most influence, come to me, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
Oops. Sorry. I guess I got that wrong.
It was children that Jesus welcomed, wasn't it? Not even just children in general but specifically little children. Jesus said the Kingdom of heaven
belongs to people who are like little children: those who are vulnerable, spontaneous, loving, playful--and who have minimal power.
I have certainly had my struggles with the illusion of being able to perfect myself. A lot of the time I think I am not even aware when that illusion is active. It just functions as an undercurrent, eating away at the underpinnings of my heart and soul.
But that seems to be changing, at least to some degree. I don't know if it is due to my age--advanced middle age, I like to call it--but I seem to have finally arrived in a space of a little more acceptance of myself and (I hope) others. Not perfect acceptance of imperfection! Just better.
Having written that, I began to wonder--what exactly is happening within me that allows me to move in this direction? Well, first I think I am getting a little better at recognizing that trend in myself--oh yeah, here I am berating myself again, holding myself to a standard of perfection that I can't meet. And as I recognize it and step back from it just a bit, my life seems to become just a little easier. I can feel a little more ease, laugh a little more, feel a little more centered, and also have more energy for attending to and supporting other people. So those times are self-reinforcing--very helpful reminders of what more self-acceptance, more acceptance of imperfection, can do.
Forgiving ourselves, we learn to forgive others. Seeing and allowing our own foibles we are, hopefully, more humble about accepting imperfection in others.
Here's my current favorite quote from Thich Nhat Hanh: "If I lose my direction, I have to look for the North Star, and I go to the north. That does not mean I expect to arrive at the North Star. I just want to go in that direction."
Oh, what a blessed, blessed relief. Without even being aware of it, it seems I have always figured I was supposed to actually reach the North Star. And so, of course, no matter how far I went, it was never, ever anywhere near enough. So some part of me has always thought I was utterly and totally failing because I was so far from my goal. Wow. Beginning to get that I just need to "go in that direction" is huge.
Such is the power of accepting our inevitable imperfections. It can be game-changing on some deep, slow level. Not arriving. Just heading in that direction. Not giving up, not continuing in the same lostness. Just looking up, finding the guiding star, and heading north, beckoning to others as we go.
Until next time,
Hamster, Ricky Kharawala, unSplash
Children, Larm Rmah, unSplash
Stars, Dino Reichmuth, unSplash