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Traces of an Unseen God: A Spiritual Look at Life's Complexities

by Sid Ogino

$16.00 Hardcover 93 pages

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Seeing Beauty in Imperfection

A few years ago, a missionary from the Dominican Republic came to our church and gave a presentation about her work as a physical education teacher in a small country school. I was amused to see the volleyball used by the children. It had been patched and reinforced with duct tape so many times that it was completely silver. The volleyball net was constructed of two ropes strung across bamboo poles. Any ball over the top rope was good and any ball under the net was no good. There were no lines on the ground so it was anyone's guess which balls were "in" and which were "out." And the basketball court was really cool. Instead of a basket mounted on a pole, a little boy stood on a desk. If he caught the ball it was counted as a basket. Slam-dunking was not allowed.

I think many of the people who viewed the presentation felt sorry for those "poor" and "deprived" children. I did not. I felt envious. I thought to myself, "This is true sport: no million-dollar salaries, no swoosh symbols on shirts and shoes, no prima donna antics or spoiled brat attitudes, and no cutthroat competition. Here, everyone is a cheerleader, everyone is a player, and most important, everyone has fun."

It reminded me of the summer I taught school in a rural Methodist boarding school in the Fiji Islands. When I arrived, I was surprised to see how many "imperfect" people there were. It was common to see people who were missing arms, legs, eyes, fingers and teeth. But there was a certain Spartan beauty in these "imperfect" people. Imperfection was acceptable and it was the status quo. This was very apparent to me when I went to the town gymnasium to watch the South Pacific Games. The Tongan women's basketball team took the court and played the entire game without brassieres, socks or shoes. I can still hear the crowd cheering, "Go Tonga, shake it baby, shake it!" And did they ever shake it! Wow. Everyone was a cheerleader. Everyone was a player. And everyone had fun.

In his book, Golf is not a Game of Perfect, sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella writes, "[T]rain yourself to accept the fact that as a human being, you are prone to mistakes. Golf is a game played by human beings. Therefore, golf is a game of mistakes . . . if you bring a smothering perfectionism to the golf course, you will probably leave with a higher handicap and a lousy disposition because your game will never meet your expectations." Rotella teachers amateur golfers to have only one goal each time they play golf - to have fun and enjoy the game.

What is true in sports is also true in life. Unless we can make peace with life's imperfections, we will never be happy. I've yet to meet a happy perfectionist. These individuals are usually so focused on what is not there that they fail to see what is there. They are so obsessed with what is wrong that they fail to celebrate what is right. That is why hard-core perfectionists never enjoy true inner peace. Their compulsion for fixing and improving keeps them dissatisfied, disillusioned and discontent.

This is also true of our spiritual journeys. We must either learn to enjoy imperfection or prepare for a lonely life of continual frustration.

There is a joke that illustrates the beauty of imperfection. It involves a Catholic cardinal whose cruise ship was scheduled to make a layover on a small island in the Pacific. He knew that many years ago, a Catholic missionary had planted a church in a remote village on that island, and he wanted to see if that church still survived. So after the ship set anchor, the cardinal organized an excursion to the remote village. There he found three shabbily dressed men who called themselves "Kasovics." His Eminence, the cardinal, asked the three men if they knew how to pray.

They replied, We pray dis way: We three. You three. Have mercy on us!"

Disgusted by their appearance and appalled by their prayer, the cardinal instructed them in the proper way to pray, and he drilled them in memorizing the Lord's Prayer. The cardinal returned to his ship feeling quite satisfied that he had done a good deed, and shortly after, the boat departed from the small island. Later that night, however, the cardinal spotted three lights floating above the sea. The lights grew closer and closer and soon he recognized that the lights were the three men he had taught the proper way to pray. The men were skating on the water and as they approached the ship they said, " Your eminence Sir, we forgot the third line of the prayer you taught us. Could you tell us again?"

Stunned, the cardinal replied, "Forget it. Go back to 'We three. You three. Have mercy on us.'"

Are you seeking the perfect mate, the perfect figure, the perfect job, the perfect round of golf, perfect children or a perfect church? Get real. Passion is attainable. Perfection is not. Real beauty is found when imperfect people live passionate lives.


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