Shirin McArthur

prayerful pondering

A Dose of Imperfection

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It’s been quite the busy and chaotic week at our house. After returning from a lovely ten days of vacation, family visit, and general relaxation in Puerto Rico, this week was filled with two sets of contractors who spent much of the week restoring our formerly moldy master bathroom to its former state and installing gorgeous granite countertops in the kitchen.

Of course, despite the best of intentions, nothing worked out perfectly. A painter missed some spots; the water line to the toilet kept wanting to leak; the carpet was late, then wasn’t wide enough for the master closet; they forgot to reattach the dishwasher to the cabinet frame when they were done…and a shelf bracket broke in a kitchen cabinet while they were installing the countertops, and the shelf collapsed, breaking half-a-dozen pieces of my grandma’s antique china.

IMG_2383Obviously, that last issue was the toughest one for me to take. I heard the crash—the sound of breaking china is a dreadful one! Initially, it was devastating—but only for a few moments. It was clear that it was an accident, and I took a deep breath and decided that the only way through was forward. Of course, it was also devastating for the workers; they hadn’t intended to break anything. It put a serious damper on the rest of the day, in fact, which really was too bad for all of us.

Things worked themselves out—as they almost always do. I got to know the administrative assistant at the contractor’s office, and spent quite a bit of time looking for the appropriate replacement pieces of china on eBay. Fortunately for me, my grandma appears to have chosen a fairly common pattern, and I found similar or identical versions of all but one of the pieces with just a couple of hours of careful review. The replacement china has arrived at their office, and is supposed to be delivered to me on Monday—by the same person who will also get our dishwasher safely reattached to its cabinet.

I do wonder if part of the reason why I was able to remain relatively calm with all that happened this week was the fact that I had recently edited a full dozen articles on the subject of perfection for the latest edition of the CAC’s journal, Oneing. All those reflections on the reality of, and graces inherent within, imperfection were helpful in reminding me of the importance of letting go of my preconceptions about how things will unfold.

I also received, yet again, the lesson that our material possessions are just that: possessions. They are not the memories. My feelings about my grandma have not been changed in any way by the accidental destruction of those lovely serving dishes. The fact that the replacement dishes were never in my grandma’s kitchen, or cleaned by her own loving hands, is just that: a fact. Nothing more, or less. I will use those new serving dishes as part of a set, and still call it “grandma’s china,” even if some of those pieces are only “hers” by association, rather than history.

When in your life has imperfection resulted in chaos or destruction? How did you respond—after you got over the initial shock? How did your response shape the events that followed, and your feelings about the event as a whole? How might you approach such events differently in the future? What spiritual wisdom or discipline might be helpful in keeping you grounded in such moments?

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