“Well, no one’s perfect.”
My own children are here today – my daughter Morgen and my son John. I got my first exposure to clear and undeniable human perfection 32-and-a-half years ago, when I first laid eyes on newborn Morgen. And in case I missed the message, I got an equally powerful form of it two years later when John was born.
They grew, and there were challenges, and they were teenagers, and there were challenges. But if I ask myself, when did they stop being perfect, I have to say, they never did.
By contrast, the official traditional theology of the Catholic church offers a different answer. At age seven you enter the age of reason, can make moral distinctions, commit sin after that, and join the fallen state bequeathed to us from Adam. That’s not our theology -- and it’s not my experience. Oh, sure, Morgen and John would occasionally, rarely, do something that might reasonably be called a mistake – but it was a perfect mistake. It was exactly the mistake they needed to make to learn what they needed to learn. If they never stopped being perfect, neither did I, and neither did you. Which means perfection isn’t static. Pefection is dynamic.
A newborn is perfect, and at the same time, we wouldn’t want it to stay exactly as it is for 40 years. Having the capacity for change, growth, and learning is a key part of what makes them perfect just as they are. So it is with every infant, every child, every youth, and every adult. Perfect.
What we aren’t, and can’t be is everything. We have our gifts, and with them come our shadows. We have our vulnerability, our woundedness, our brokenness.
I’d like to say two things about that.
First, the shadow is necessary for the gift. Being not so good at X is what allows you to be good at Y. The so-called “weakness” is what makes the strength possible.
Second, I want to go a step further than that. Your weakness IS your strength. The part of you that seems broken is itself your gift to the world – it is your blessed affliction.
For the first point, consider this. Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, looked at a variety of fields and discovered a kind of magic number: 10,000 hours. Ten thousand hours is what it takes to really become outstanding at something. A dedicated athlete or scientist, musician or dancer, can sustain focused, intense practice or study for maybe 20 hours a week – so it takes 10 years to get to 10,000 hours. Whether there’s really something magic about 10,000 hours, or whatever the number is, what this reminds us is: no one can be good at everything. We get good at it by doing it – and we’re inclined to do it if we think we’re good at it – and the hours you put in sharpening your tremolo technique were hours you weren’t practicing your jump shot.
You can’t be everything. Whatever your gift, every gift comes with its shadow. What we aren’t and don’t makes possible what we are and do.
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This is part 1 of 4 of "Blessed Affliction."
Next: Part 2: "The Brokenness Is the Gift"