by Kristin Fontaine
I was driving around with my son and another driver or a pedestrian did something that was ill-advised right in front of us. There was no major problem, my son is an excellent driver and very aware at all times of what is going on around him on the road. (It is one of many reasons why when we go places together, I let him drive us.)
The incident led to him grumbling about the other person’s lack of good decision making (perhaps not in so many words). I mentioned that people doing random things is one reason to build slack into any system. Tolerance for errors helps a system be flexible.
Yesterday, I was reading a friends Facebook post where she mentioned that she would be getting new prescription lenses from her eye doctor because she needed to move to progressive lenses. I wrote back that progressive eye-glass lenses were like a miracle you could wear on your face. Mine allow me to drive, or watch TV or knit, or many other things that I would not be able to do with out them.
That got me to thinking about how humans were not created perfect. We may be made in God’s image but apparently perfection was not something God felt should be included. Instead God gave us brains and creativity so that we can find ways to both work around our own imperfections and help others do the same.
I’ve needed glasses since I was 10. Hundreds of years ago a human figured out that a transparent lens could bend and focus light. Other humans figured out that this bending property could be used to bring things into focus for people with weirdly shaped or aging eyeballs. A miracle made by humans for other humans to wear on their face.
Flexibility in the system allowing me to function without perfect sight.
This evening I was driving home from my adventures visiting parts of Puget Sound where I had never been before, and I stopped for food before heading home.
At the restaurant I misunderstood what the cashier was asking me and got charged less than I should have for my meal. After I was done eating, I realized what happened and tried to pay the remainder. The cashier thanked me but didn’t accept my money. I suspect that is in part because the accounting software isn’t really set up to deal with that situation easily. The fact that the cashier had the flexibility to deal with the situation meant that I feel affection for the restaurant and will certainly be back (and now that I understand the system, pay full price).
All of these encounters with flexibility contrast with some of the things I have seen in the news lately about systems being allowed to run amok with no apparent flexibility built in.
It reminds me of Jesus taking the Scribes and Pharisees to task for following rules but not the spirit that may have originally engendered the rules.
When people follow rules blindly and forget about the reasoning behind the rules it can lead to terrible disasters, to injury and death, to wounds that will never heal. I think that God built imperfection into humans, animals, and (as it says in the Book of Common Prayer) the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.
Imperfection and flexibility go hand-in-hand. When humans begin to believe they (or their rules) are perfect then their is no room for humans left in the system and it can grind us up– using other people as the grinders.
In order to avoid being either the grinder or the grindee, God has give us a great gift. The gift of Grace. The gift to be messy and imperfect. The gift to make space for others to be messy and imperfect.
It is out of the mess and imperfections of our lives that some of the greatest love, inventiveness, and creativity can come.
We may long for perfection– but that is not what God gave us in our incarnation. We are born imperfect and we die imperfect and if we let that bother us we lose sight of the messy flexibility that is our birthright.
Quotations are from 2007 PDF edition of the Book of Common Prayer, page 370.
Kristin Fontaine is an itinerant Episcopalian, crafter, hobbyist, and unstoppable organizer of everything. Advent is her favorite season, but she thinks about the meaning of life and her relationship to God year-round. It all spills out in the essays she writes. She and her husband own Dailey Data Group, a statistical consulting company.