Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Perfectionism: Lessons from Preschoolers

This time last week, Eloise and I had painted our toes purple and danced in the rain.  It was a wild, girly kind of day.

Just now, Eloise and I were reading a book together.  And we looked at our matching toes.

I said, "Look sweetie.  We have matching toes.  Aren't they pretty?"

Pointing to her right foot she said "These are broken."  And to her left foot, "these are perfect."

I said, "Well look, some of mine are kinda broken too."

Then she said a very profound thing.  Pointing back at her broken (chipping) toe nails on her right foot, she said, "These are sad."  And pointing to her perfect left foot, she said, "these are happy."

Broken equals sad, and perfect equals happy.  I was profoundly struck by this because lately I've noticed Eloise's awareness of perfection.

And she likes things to be "perfect."  (I'm not sure where she's even learned the concept because not many things are perfect around here.)  For example, she won't eat cookies with nuts in them because they are "not perfect."  She likes a clean smooth cookie.  She gets frustrated when she's dressing herself because if her pants are folded under or uneven or anything, they are "not perfect."  And she screams very loudly about it.  Now her hair is a whole other story.  (-:

Anyway, back to the quote.

I also think perfection means happiness.  When I see a neighborhood mom driving her suburban with her freshly highlighted hair, four kids in the back, sipping her latte, and wearing Lilly Pulitzer, I think she's perfect and happy.

And when I see an old woman struggling to understand her prescription at CVS and struggling to just stand up with her broken sunglasses on her head, I think she must be sad.

But then I remember our friend from Shepherd's Heart, our inner city church in Pittsburgh that serves the homeless, the addicted, other imperfect people like us, who from the outside looked broken in every way.  He suffered daily from his time in Vietnam, he lost his family, he's overcoming addiction everyday, struggles with anger and sadness, and yet the JOY from that man's lips is the most beautiful sound you might ever here.  The REDEMPTION of his soul is astounding.  And the PEACE that the Spirit of God brings to him as he sings to himself over and over and over again is real.

It is not perfection that makes us happy.

It is when our vessels are broken, that the light of God can shine through.  It is when our cups are empty, that the Spirit can pour in.

Thanks, Eloise for this lesson from human nature.  Now I pray that both you and I can move pass our desires for perfection and "boast all the more in our weakness."  "For when I am weak, I am strong."  2 Corinthians 12:10b


Tessa said...

OMG, literally just finished writing my post for the day and yours was SO perfectly, yet ironicly appropriate. I may use your quote about perfection, you are wise beyond your years Emily

Molly said...

Barbara Brown Taylor, the minister who spoke at my college baccalaureate, spoke at a local church Sunday, and I went to see her. It got me looking at a couple of her books that I own. She has an old sermon published called the "arthritic spirit." In it she speaks about when we need to forgive others and how when we don't forgive, we really just build up bitterness and resentment in our own lives, hearts, and spirit. By forgiving (others, ourselves, the world), our own spirit can be redeemed, the sadness goes away.

Next time Eloise's toe is sad because it's imperfect, tell her Aunt Molly says if she forgives the toe and loves/accepts it for what it is, the sadness will start to go away. She and her toe can be happy.

Anonymous said...

Emily your toes are soooo pretty!