Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Perfection of Imperfection

America, I leave you in 6 weeks. That's right, readers, 6 weeks! My official departure date is August 24th and I'll be heading from Stewart International Airport to Detroit Metropolitan Airport to O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa to Cape Town International Airport in Cape Town! Hopefully it will be easy connections that will create a drama-free trip. A seamless transition into my new location will definitely help me in my own emotional transition when I move to a new country. That would be perfection! Oh, wait, Perfection. That's in the title of this blog, so we might as well talk about it!

Did you notice that seamless transition into my blog topic? As a native US Citizen, born and raised in these 50 states, I've grown up in a nation inspired by perfection. Whether it's finding the perfect school to attend for under grad or the perfect diet to help you maintain your perfect weight or being perfect at your chosen career and ambitions, this is a nation of perfection achievers.

True to form, I am approaching this journey hoping that everything turns out perfectly. I want my funds to be raised quickly and efficiently. I want my packing to be quick and easy because I have the perfect amount of clothes and shoes to fit in the bags I'm taking. I want to find the perfect new shoes that will be comfortable for walking the streets of Cape Town but won't totally kill my arches like my flip flops do now. I want to look my best and act my best when I start my job. I want to live perfectly once I get there, eating right and exercising all while performing perfectly at my new job and enjoying social outings with housemates and friends. Speaking of friends, making new ones should be absolutely effortless and I expect to have the perfect group of friends almost immediately when I get there.

Now, I know my life will not be quite this perfect, but I'm here to tell you all (and myself) why that is not just OK, but good! But first, let me tell you what inspired this blog on perfection and imperfection.

As some or all of you know, my dad is the Bishop of Nebraska and until two years ago was a priest, both in Nebraska and New York state. I was lucky enough to serve on the altar a few times in both Nebraska and New York and noticed a lovely little prayer he says with his altar party before every service. Some of you may have heard it before with personal additions to your congregation, but this is how it generally goes: "Assist us mercifully oh Lord as we go unto the altar of God to celebrate the sacred ministries of the Body and Blood of your Son our savior, Jesus Christ. We know there is no such thing as a perfect service unto You. Please accept these, our humble offerings, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen."

On my very first Sunday back at church after my YASC training and orientation, there was an example of one of those imperfect services. Our usual organist was gone and her replacement didn't realize just how much spirit our little church puts into our music, so her versions of our popular hymns were a tad slower than we were all used to. Our poor Lector had difficulty with both the Lesson and the Epistle and with the readings being 1 Kings 19 and Galatians 5, who could blame her? The Kings reading is basically a list of awful-to-pronounce names like Hazael, Aram, Jeru, Nimshi, and Shaphat of Abel-meholah, not to mention both Elisha and Elijah. Are they pronounced differently? Who knows! The Galatians reading wasn't quite as tricky, but she did have to list out some sins of the flesh that I've never heard of before: licentiousness, enmities,  and carousing, among that list. The Gospel, easily read, inspired my own imperfection! One of the lines of the Gospel (Luke 9) was "I will follow you wherever you go." After hearing our deacon read these words, I quickly started humming Sandra Posey's "I Will Follow Him" in my head and couldn't get it out of my head until the Peace!

And the imperfection continued. During the Nicene Creed, our family alone produced the sounds of a burp, cough, and nose blow all within 10 seconds. During the Prayers of the People, our response was "Hear our prayer", but I tried to start that response with "Lord" about 6 times before I finally remembered that I was saying it wrong. During the Peace, I remembered the constant struggle I have with myself trying to figure out whether I'm supposed to hug everyone I see or just shake everyone's hands. You'd think after two decades of church, I'd have that answer ready, but the question always remains. The Offertory Music that day was a wonderful piece by Charles H. Scott that I barely recognized, but as I listened to the beautiful melody, I found myself annoyed by the inconsistent speed. I found out after the service that her mother had sung the song to her when she was little, and I know now that she was simply singing what she'd heard her whole life. I now know, that song was perfect to her. Even the other songs we sang with our replacement organist were perfect. The slow speed may have been hard for people trying to get in and out of church, but it provided a fantastic opportunity to really sit with the words and music and to focus and reflect on what you were hearing and singing. 

There certainly is no such thing as a perfect service, but I know God accepted our humble offerings with as much love as he would to anything deemed perfect. I cannot wait to share my own imperfections with HOPE Africa. I know that they will take them, love them, and share their own imperfections with me. I will remember to be imperfect whenever I can be so as to learn. Won't you join me?

I'll end the blog with this, which I first heard as part the Blessing at the end of a service officiated by Mother Suzanne Wille, now in Indianapolis, Indiana.

"Life is short and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who make the journey with us. So be swift to love and make haste to be kind."

With Peace,

PS: I don't think I've shown you who I am yet! So this is me! Have you ever seen imperfect look so happy?

PPS: As always, continue to follow the blog to hear more about the journey! I still need to raise about $5,000, so if you'd still like to donate, click HERE or send a tax-deductible donation to the Diocese of Nebraska with "HOPE Africa" in the note line. Their address is 109 North 18th St, Omaha, NE 68102. 

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