Perfection

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You may not have ever noticed this about me before me but I have a defect. OK, probably more than one. But there is one you can readily see in this photo taken of me last summer. I may look like my glasses are on a little crooked but that is not the case.

It is my eyes that are crooked! If you look at the top of the glasses, you can see rather plainly that there is a bigger gap between the frame over my left eye than there is over my right eye. My eyes were not set evenly on my face.

Now this is not a big deal really. After all, I can see well with my glasses and most people either don’t notice or are too polite to say anything. But the interesting question is: why didn’t God get it right?

Compared to creating and keeping the stars and planets in alignment, getting my eyes evenly placed on my face should be a pretty simple job. I wonder why He messed this up, even if only a little.

If this was all there was, perhaps we could let it go. But there seem to be some pretty major mistakes being made. I was looking on YouTube for videos on how to score and cut glass since, as some of you know, working with glass is one of my hobbies. I came across a video that fascinated me.

As with many instructional videos, the instructor’s face are not shown. Only his hands can be viewed as he carries out his task, scoring wavy lines and achieving flawless gentle breaks of the pane along his score. Exquisite.

But there is something else intriguing. There is something different about this man’s hands. Though our politically correct world likely has a better term for it, he clearly has a bilateral birth defect in the way his hands and arms are constructed. God really missed the mark on this one.

And then there is this other YouTube video I came across by chance months ago. (I really don’t spend that much time on YouTube but, when something strikes me as this did, I file it away.) This video is about a beautiful little girl and her parents who have been faced with and are living out a great dilemma. This little girl was born a boy.

This child was born with all the male parts but, from the time she was very little, she wanted to wear dresses, automatically reached for “girl” toys, wanted to wear her hair long and wanted to be addressed as a girl. To be dressed or addressed as a boy made her very upset. Her parents, whose other children did not have this issue, finally, in consultation with doctors, decided to allow their child to live as “she”, the self she experienced herself to be.

Wow. A transgender child? Obviously way too young to have chosen this, it seems like a gendered soul went into the wrong body type – or something. What was God thinking on this one?

How is that God who is perfection itself makes so many mistakes? Or are they not mistakes? Are all these anomalies the result of sin? God made human beings perfect, we sinned and, when evil entered the world, all of these strange things started happening?

Before we jump to any conclusions, let’s watch a little. You’ve already seen my flawed face above. So let’s watch our glass cutter:

This fellow, whom I have never met, is a master with stained glass and offers many online tutorials. What he is doing is nowhere near as easy as he makes it look. It is interesting to note that, early on in the video, he refers to himself as a “freak” – and his viewers have some things to say about that. I made a comment too when I first watched it.

This man has beautiful hands. They are very different from standard hands. But when I watch him work, I simply cannot say that this is a defect or a deformity. Perhaps God didn’t make a mistake…

Now let’s watch our child. (If you find the notion of transgender disturbing or repulsive, try to set that aside for a moment and watch, realizing that this is just a child who came into the world like any other child.)

Such a beautiful kid. No, I cannot bring myself to say that God messed up on this one either. I don’t know why there are these differences, but I cannot call Jazz a “mistake”.

Although it is possible that it is because of sin that illness and “defects” exist, other ideas have been given to me to consider.

We were not there when God created the heavens and the earth. None of us are His counselor (to paraphrase the book of Job).

We have many assumptions about how things are supposed to be in order to be right or “perfect” – but do we know what God’s idea of right and perfect is?

There is a saying among some religious people, when disparaging homosexuality, that “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”. This is supposed to be a witty confirmation that God does not approve of same-sex attraction.

But my rejoinder question always is, “But who then created Steve?” (Let no one say the devil, for he cannot create anything.)

It is an interesting pattern that, throughout history and across cultures, approximately 10% of the population experiences same-sex attraction. I have counseled many people over the years from this 10%, for issues related or unrelated to their orientation. Many have said, “Why would I choose this?”, a lifestyle that they must keep secret lest they be ridiculed or persecuted.

I do not know what God’s idea of right and perfect is. But I feel quite sure that when we become too convinced that we do, we humans commit some of the worst and most hateful sins known to humanity. All in God’s name.

We make other people feel like they are nothing. Or worse – that they are freaks of nature, unfit for human company, unlovable, unwelcome in the house of God.

But there is something else. My intent here is not to discuss gender identity or sexual orientation issues, the Church’s position on these or any such controversy.

Rather, I feel called to write about God’s perfection.

If my eyes were set perfectly on my face and every other little (or big) difference and deviation from the seeming ideal were corrected, what would we have?

Perfectly symmetrical, exactly formed Barbie and Ken dolls, all just alike.

And that would be perfect?

Herein lies the paradox, the beautiful paradox – perfection in life seems to be based on imperfection.

If you have ever loved anyone closely enough to have explored them physically, even just their hands or their face, you have likely noticed how delightful are those special little differences that make their index finger unlike any other, or their nose or earlobe especially memorable.

And life, when viewed on a larger scale, seems to be based on a similar notion. I do not know if it is literally true that every single snowflake is different, but certainly they are seldom if ever alike. There is sameness and difference in all of the creatures of a species – and likewise with the plant life. Each daisy is similar to every other daisy – but they are never identical.

And why is this? I do not know God’s mind – most certainly I could not. But I do see that life is dynamic – ever-growing, ever-changing. Only a static “life” (which would be no life) could produce the sort of assembly line “perfection” that we humans imagine to be perfection.

God’s perfection is apparently something different. I don’t know what is part of His perfection and what is the influence of evil corrupting it. I’m too blinded myself by sin to know the difference with any certainty.

As I indicated recently, I don’t believe that aggressive cancer is a “variation” designed by God. I believe it is evil. But I cannot even know this with certainty because I am not God’s counselor.

I don’t know about the artist’s hands or the transgender child or the many other differences that we encounter on a daily basis. Perhaps some or even all do stem from our ancestral sin and God in His goodness has allowed good to come from them.

I do not know. But I do know that God has created life to be wildly and beautifully growing and changing – not becoming increasingly uniform but rather increasingly variable and interdependent in a communion of love.

Though it may not immediately occur to us that this is so, God in His own Being is both sameness and difference. This is how God can be Trinity, Three (different) yet One (same).

Hence, it only makes sense that He should create life in this same fashion, in His own likeness, with both sameness and difference. There can be no Love in sameness, only when there is the difference of Other.

Our adversary tries to twist our thinking, however, to convince us that “perfection” is not in Other-relation but in sameness, i.e. “being like me”. Violation of this principle, masquerading as divine perfection, provides the basis for an insidious hate that seems justifiable to many a believer.

But for we who listen to the Spirit, difference is the air that we breathe, it is what keeps our souls alive because it makes love possible.

It is God’s greatest gift to us. It is our invitation into the communion of His love.

We do not need to know from whence the difference originates because the orders from our divine Commander in battle are the same in any event. If one is different by God’s design, our orders are to love. If one is different because of sin, personal or ancestral, our orders are even more so to love. We are commanded to love our enemies and to love the sinner.

And in God’s command lies our life, our hope, our salvation.

Without it, we would be lost in the “perfection” of our making, which is no perfection at all. It is death, not life. Hate, not love.

In Him, the “imperfections” of His creation are like the countless parts of a living orchestra of infinite dimensions, ever changing in color and shape, movement and sound, that He conducts and choreographs in an eternal dance called “Love”.

Come, let us join the dance, one and all. Let us dance and sing and love each other as we are in His great symphony of merciful love that knows no end.

3 thoughts on “Perfection

  1. albert

    A clear and powerful explication, Mary. It stirred this old pot, which has been simmering lately over the LBGT+ debates and pronouncements.

    Here’s one thing that you helped me recognize in myself:

    often –especially in firsthand encounters, whether wth nature or with persons– I don’t see difference as beauty, I just see. And wonder. That us to say, I am unaware of regular or irregular proportions . When I dont reflect, I am free to experience. I think it is when I think about beauty, or about difference, that I get a bit distracted. Or when I realize, as you pointed out, that imposed or inherited “standards” of perfection and beauty might lead to their loss, their disappearance almost. It’s a danger that arises in the mind, not in the heart. Could it be that what we seem to value in humanity most of all (reason, knowledge –that ancient fruit) is also what leads often to our diminishment; i.e., judging others to be beautiful or ugly, acceptable or rejected, us or them.

  2. mary Post author

    Thank you both for your comments.

    You raise a valid point, Al, about reason/knowledge. Not that it cannot be a valuable gift. However, it can so readily throw us off the track of love if we are not careful.

    I suspect that many religious people who have strong negative reactions to other people based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical difference, country of origin, etc have never truly met a person of the group they disparage. (An exception might be the person who has had exclusively negative experiences, such as having lived through war or some such – but that typically doesn’t qualify as a true “meeting” of the other.)

    When we meet/encounter a person, we see the God-likeness in them. If they have a distracting difference in appearance or mode of communication, we might need a bit of help getting past that, but generally it doesn’t take us long. However, when we encounter the IDEA of a person or people, from what we hear or read or see in the media, we often do not see this God-likeness. We analyze the IDEA of the person apart from his/her reality, a person designed and beloved of God.

    Is there anyone who is not designed and beloved of God? No matter how far from His path anyone has strayed (and only God can know who has and how much), all are His beloved. This is the truth we are called to live.

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