As the only child of a single parent I grew up very much attuned to the challenges my mother faced – working, paying bills, and parenting. From that understanding I determined that my job was to be good, to not make waves or ruffle her feathers. (Was I a perfect child? Not by a long shot, but such was my mindset.)
During the holiday season I had some women from church to my home for brunch. One spoke of remembering the two of us at a women’s retreat years ago. We were coloring madallas and sat next to one another. Her recollection was that I had a self-inflicted melt-down when I had mistakenly colored outside a line. She said “And I knew at that time that I was sitting next to the right person.” It seems she too has suffered from the disease of perfectionism.
I don’t imagine that we choose by intellect, to be one kind of a person or another. Our environments shape us. If choice was an option I would here and now caution everyone NOT to choose perfectionism. We are doomed to failure; it is not possible to do all things well. As I have gotten older I do believe I have gotten a bit wiser. (And it may be that I will live a very long time because I have a lot to learn!) In recognizing my own humanity I am able to understand and accept not only my own short falls, but those that may occur around me: I am more forgiving; it is easier to forgive.
So where does Fred come in? you may be asking. Recently I came across this quotation from Frederick Buechner: “Only God is holy, just as only people are human.” Oh! We’re unique – human – and not only is that acceptable, it’s exactly what we were created to be! And then I came across this longer quotation from Buechner: “Humans are so the universe will have something to talk through, so God will have something to talk with, and so the rest of us will have something to talk about. The biblical view of the history of humankind and of each individual man or woman is contained in the first three chapters of Genesis. We are created to serve God by loving God and each other in freedom and joy, but we invariably choose bondage and woe instead as prices not too high to pay for independence. To say that God drove Adam and Eve out of Eden is apparently a euphemism for saying that Adam and Eve, like the rest of us, made a break for it as soon as God happened to look the other way. If God really wanted to get rid of us, the chances are God wouldn't have kept hounding us every step of the way ever since.”
I adore the way that quote ends. We go off and do whatever we feel like doing – asserting our independence – the minute God looks away. People are human. God gave us that freedom from the beginning. And God has continued to hound us ever since: Calling. Us. Back.
Thanks Fred, for making me feel better.
[I've added two new poems to the poetry page.]