Community / Ordinary Life / Work and Rest

Moments of Perfection…Almost

Have you ever experienced this? Occasionally something occurs which seems to carry not a single flaw. Amidst all the brokenness of life an oasis appears that for the moment, at least, seems to have missed the inertia towards chaos and disappointment. Instead it hints at perfection.

It may be tiny, like a flower managing to blossom in some surprising spot, perhaps rooted in a smidgen of soil in a crack of a boulder. Delicate petals, perfect ellipses around a pale center, surround hair-like stamen colored with pollen. Or it may be as expansive as the northern lights, mysterious cosmic streaks of colored light dancing across a night sky littered with a million stars.

Sometimes it can even be an evening with friends. Just the right number, sharing food and wine, or tea and coffee over conversation that ranges from the trivial to the profound, through laughter and poignancy, in an atmosphere of gracious safety. The time unfolds so naturally that no one is aware of time passing, except for a deepening sense that this is the way home is supposed to be.

Oh, I know the perfection is imperfect. That a magnifying glass will reveal some blemish in the flower, and that air and light pollution is reducing the brilliance of the aurora borealis even as we marvel at it. I know the meal is measured by my perception and that my companions might harbor memories quite different from my own. That I might have made some passing comment inadvertently reviving a painful memory secretly holed up in the heart of my friend.

But still: the moments that seem to hint at perfection are as precious as they are rare, a grace for which I seldom adequately express gratitude. Fool that I am, sometimes I even believe I can recreate them, plan for them, schedule them.

Such moments are profoundly satisfying, but the satisfaction isn’t sufficient to make us feel we’ve arrived. Instead they trigger a deep yearning for more. As if the brokenness isn’t how things were meant to be. As if the perfection we were made for isn’t once-for-all static but ever-more refreshing in a pilgrimage in which there are always new ways to taste satisfaction.

In the documentary, War Dance, children in a sprawling Ugandan refugee camp near the front lines take part in a national music competition. All have suffered loss, their parents raped and slaughtered, and some of the children were forced to commit atrocities as kidnapped child-soldiers before escaping to the cam. And all find some measure of happiness, of quiet fulfillment, a few moments of blessed forgetfulness in the music.

We human beings are fallen, broken in a profound way that has rippled out to distort all of life, culture, and creation. I know of no one who claims to believe that everything is perfect as it is, and if I met such a person I would assume they are speaking ironically.

But I also believe that common grace is scattered across this fragmented sad world so that hints of perfection arise. Momentary and incomplete, these moments whisper of better things.

And for that, I wait.