Sunday, June 22, 2008

Imperfection

At our Quaker meeting two Sundays ago, a Friend gave a message that has stuck with me.

She was hired to bake a chocolate vegan cake for an event. Her first cake failed. She tried again, this time baking three round layers instead of a sheet cake. The three layers all collapsed in the middle.

At this point, she had no time left. She had to deliver the cakes in half an hour. So she and her husband, who had popped in, worked to salvage the imperfect cakes. They trimmed away the overcooked edges of the sheet cake and cut it into into four pieces, which they frosted. Then they filled the fallen insides of the round cakes: one with strawberries, one with vegan chocolate chips and coconut, and the other with another fruit, I believe, and frosted them. They ended up with cakes that were fine.

In thinking about this, she realized that we're always working with imperfection ... and that's OK. We can make good things out of imperfect beginnings and build good worlds with imperfect people. Life doesn't have to be perfect to be good.

As this story has played over and over in my mind, a "parable of the cakes," I remember that when the God made the world, he didn't declare it perfect. He called it good.

Then he rested.

And when God speaks from heaven and calls Jesus his son, he says he is "well pleased" with him. This is high praise, but not of the most effusive sort.

What all of this says to me is that good is good enough. What do you think?

2 comments:

cath said...

I've met quite a few traditional artisans in my life, and many of them operate on the theory that it's prideful to strive for a perfect piece and will deliberately make a small imperfection in each piece their produce. This seems to have been true for many traditional quiltmakers I've met.

And while I think striving for one's "personal best" is a good endeavor, knowing that a personal best may not be perfect is a way to stay grounded.

cath

Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

I believe you're both right and wrong in saying that when God called His creation "good", He didn't mean "perfect".

The original Hebrew word is tôb, which according to The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible "means that a person or a thing is in accordance with the acknowledged practical, moral or religious standards". In other words, tôb means that it is fitting and suitable to the situation, meets the need or the desire, and therefore is welcome.

Tôb says a thing is contextually as near to perfect as makes no never mind, but does not necessarily say a thing is inwardly or intrinsically perfect.

The cake you describe definitely met the need and was therefore welcome. So I guess it was "good" in the same sense as God's Creation!

In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus tells a parable in which he likens the Kingdom of the Father to a woman who was carrying a jar full of meal:

"While she was walking a road far [from home], the handle of the jar broke, and the meal trickled out behind her [onto] the road. She didn't realize; she hadn't noticed the accident. (But) when she reached her house, she put down the jar and found it empty."

Maybe I'm misunderstanding this story. But I think Jesus was inviting us to see that even the empty jar was good, and that this is the Kingdom of the Father!