The No.1 Way to be Perfect

I suppose I’ve written about perfection before. It’s a recurring theme in my life. The search for perfection and the disappointment at not finding it and all that ensues. I have come to a couple of conclusions.

First, the search for perfection is not wrong. It’s sort of hard-wired into us, some of us, more than others. Somewhere in our hearts, there is an impression of what is good and pure and perfect and there is a longing to match that experience with everyday life. So we expect it from ourselves, our families, our friends, our work and the world around us.

Second, the disappointment is not wrong too, if it doesn’t turn into anything more toxic – like depression, cynicism, bitterness etc. To feel disappointed is human.

The question though is that who determines the standard for perfection? My standard is based on my life experience and so it is with all of us. There is no perfect way to score life and it’s many complexities. If you’re writing an exam and there are 100 questions, you could score a perfect result by knowing the 100 answers. Life is not that simple.

I hear the word “Christian” and my mind conjures up a picture of the perfect Christian. There are some things a Christian never does (in my tally sheet)  – a Christian never cheats, a Christian is always sincere, a Christian has integrity and works hard, and so on. My tally sheet of a perfect Christian is based on my worldview and values that are important to me. And so I judge a Christian who is insincere or lies “as a bad witness.”

But today a novel thought occurred to me. In the last conversation Jesus had with his disciples, the night before he was betrayed by one of them, he said, “Love one another…By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Not by being perfect – whatever version of perfect we have, but by loving one another. The world is not waiting for a perfect person. The world is looking for perfect love. And that’s really hard.

Being a “good Christian” –  not cheating, not lying, not stealing, being sincere, being thankful, being contented, being generous…these are the easy things. But loving those who are not those things and who think and proclaim that they are….that’s the hard part. And wait, according to Jesus, not loving them is actually what is really “a bad witness.”

We called to perfect our love for one another. Not to disconnect from the imperfect but to love them enough to call them to account (if possible), to lovingly deal with them, to pray for them, to refrain from being the judge over them and to love them through it all. Then the world will see and know that something is different and that they have encountered perfect love.

RECIPES, with love

Our youngest cousin just got married a week ago. As a gift, the women of our family compiled their favourite recipes, verses from the Bible and a prayer for the bride. The ones that came in from abroad and from other parts of India are here below. Will try to get the handwritten ones too. Until then, enjoy the ones below…

sudhayvonneAsha

My recipe was Rosemary Lemon/Orange Chicken (my own creation)

Oil to fry (at least 5-6 tablespoons)

Onion – 1-2 medium size

Garlic – 2-3 cloves, crushed

Fresh Rosemary – 3-4 sprigs

Chili powder – 1 tsp

Haldi/Tumeric powder – 1/4 tsp

Pepper – 1/2 tsp

Juice of 1-2 lemons/1 orange

Soya Sauce – a tablespoon or a tablespoon of homemade red wine (for change in flavour)

Salt – to taste

Fry the onions and garlic till slightly brown. Add a the rosemary and the masala powders. Fry till fragrant and oil separates. Add the chicken and fry till the pieces turn brown. Add the lemon/orange juice. You can also add soya sauce or homemade red wine for a change in flavour. Fry the chicken well, add 1/2 cup of water, salt and cover and cook. You can play around with the flavours adding or removing spices etc.

Hopeless romantic

Just finished watching Pride and Prejudice, my favourite book of all time, my favourite love story of all time. Watching a period movie made me realise something though. We have lost the art of waiting and I wonder what it has done to our feelings, our manners, our ways of loving and living. I mean what was waiting to meet someone like, when there were no phones/updates to check on where they were all the time? Or what was it like to mull over things, things that were said and then no clarifications were possible via texts etc. What was it like to really sit alone, no TV to distract, no phone to keep checking on, to sit alone and enjoy solitude with its pleasures and its loneliness.

PridePrejudice20052

Sounds crazy and not even practical, but I would love to replicate that life, a little less technology, a little more of real life. Visit friends homes, write them letters, print photographs, read, paint, sit alone and think, be careful with my words, go on long walks, lie in bed and think. Oh, the irony that I write this on a laptop, type my words through electronic media…but this is in the hope that someone would read it and want to do the same. That maybe, just maybe, we could live life in the real world – enjoying its lonely moments without seeking refuge in gadgets, treasuring the wait to meet a loved one, resisting the urge to type/text every thought that flits in and out of our minds,speak treasured words to treasured people face to face, eye to eye, the love in our voice reaching their ears and the touch of our hand on them – no chance for textual misinterpretation. Maybe we’d get a new chance to feel through what’s happening, to process our experiences better….to cry and laugh fully (without trying to capture it in a selfie) – to live in the present and to live a full and rich life – with all that it has to offer. Taking life slowly, second by second, minute by minute, day by day, savouring it….living it!

A detour: Oscar Wilde’s God

I didn’t realise Oscar Wilde was so popular in 2015. Reading his plays, and having always had an impression he was an atheist, I have been amazed to find the opposite. In fact I find he seems to know the innate nature of God. While looking up his documented religious views I came across something interesting. The lessons of love from Oscar Wilde must wait, as I bring to you this wonderful article.

Stephen Fry was interviewed in 2015 by veteran Irish broadcaster Gay Byrne. Fry was asked what he would say if he came face-to-face with God. Fry said: “Bone cancer in children, what’s that about? How dare you? How dare you create a world where there is such misery that’s not our fault? It’s utterly, utterly evil.” Within days, the video was viewed over five million times. Fry later stated he did not refer to any specific religion, and said: “I said quite a few things that were angry at this supposed God. I was merely saying things that Bertrand Russell and many finer heads of the mind have said for many thousands of years, going all the way back to the Greeks.(source: Wikipedia)

(In 1997 Fry played the part of Oscar Wilde in a film titled Wilde)

Justin Brierley (Senior Editor of Premier Christian magazine) wrote and recorded a response to Fry’s “How dare you”. The same can be watched/read at this link:

http://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/What-Stephen-Fry-could-learn-from-Oscar-Wilde

Please do follow the link and read it. It’s a compassionate, revealing picture of God painted by Oscar Wilde, retold by Justin Brierley. I thank God for people like Justin Brierley who don’t throw out well-practised answers at people who struggle to believe in God. And I thank God for people like Oscar Wilde, who to the world appears to mock all that is good and moral although in doing so points to Jesus, the only good and moral one that ever was. And the one who chose to exchange it for our blackness, to take what we deserved and so translate us into the Kingdom of Light, make us children of God and take us into God’s loving and waiting embrace.

The three greatest lessons on love from Oscar Wilde

I have been pondering on grace, thinking about what it means to live in grace and wondering how to live out grace. Enter The Plays of Oscar Wilde by Oscar Wilde. Last evening I picked it off my bookshelf and settled down to read the play An Ideal Husband. The reading of it has changed my life.
The story is about an English politician in the early nineteenth century and his wife. Interestingly, the entire action takes place in 24 hours. A conniving woman enters the scene and brings with her a secret from the politician’s past. The secret is unknown to his wife or to anyone for that matter and the revelation of it threatens to bring down the spotless reputation of the politician husband. I can’t capture the beauty of the telling of the tale in these few words but I highly recommend reading the play. Here are some of the lessons I learnt.
Embracing imperfections
“Why can’t you women love us, faults and all. Why do you place us on monstrous pedestals? We all have feet of clay, women as well as men; but when we men love women, we love them knowing their weaknesses, their follies, their imperfections, love them all the more, it may be for that reason. It is not the perfect but the imperfect that have need of love.”

I can’t say that the above is true of all men or all women. I speak for myself and the marriages I see around me and its true of my love and of many of the women I see around me. The love of perfection. I think we women have it far more than men. It begins with ourselves. Always wanting to look perfect, have the perfect skin, the perfect body, the perfect dress, the perfect attitude, be the perfect woman, wife, mother and always driving ourselves so much harder. So many of us struggle with what men don’t seem to bother about. I remember reading once about a study that had placed a mirror in a doorway and studied 600 men and 600 women who walked past. The results revealed that every single one of the 600 men looked at themselves in the mirror. And why not? They are quite happy to see what they see. Our need for perfection has spawned the billion dollar cosmetic industry!

It doesn’t end with ourselves though. We search for the perfect mate and marry them and find ourselves disillusioned with marriage and men when we find that the perfect man has many many imperfections after all. Sometimes we dare to wonder, was there a more perfect one out there? And here is the result of that, in the words of “the ideal husband”
“You made your false idol of me, and I had not the courage to come down, show you my wounds, tell you my weaknesses. I was afraid that I might lose your love, as I have lost it now.”

Girls, let’s embrace imperfection and learn to love it, in ourselves, in others and most certainly in the men we love. Let’s be that safe haven to our husbands, our children and our friends, where they are safe to be weak and safe to share their weaknesses, knowing that our love for them is not endangered.

Most of all, let it begin with our thankfulness to God in whose love we can find the security and the safety of being ourselves, imperfections and all.

In the next post, I’ll write of the other two: Pursuing understanding and Freely forgiving and forgiving to free

Hope this post has encouraged you!

Time, seasons, activities and the sun

A wise man once said, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the sun.”

It all started for me with the advent of facebook. When I was single, I looked at all my married friends and envied them. When I got married, I looked at all my friends who had kids and envied them. When I had kids, I looped back and started envying the single ones. Today, a little less envious and a little wiser for it, I started thinking about time. We, our society, especially our Indian society has wrought for us all a timetable. In school by three, out of school by 16, out of college by 20, married by 25-26 if you’re a girl or at least 30 if you’re a boy, kids before 35…so on. (The timetable is frequently updated with each generation I admit.) And hence the inevitable questions arise when you see anyone who has not checked the appropriate boxes at the pre-determined age limit. A 30 year old unmarried girl!!! A 40 year old married girl with no babies! And the one I hear so often now, a three-and-a half year old not in school?

Actually, the only real progression of time is seen via calendars and experienced as we age. The other progression is one of seasons – birth, childhood, adulthood, death. They however have been inextricably linked to complementary phases/stages – school, dating, marriage, kids, grandkids, death. The oversimplification is to make a point. So if you meet anyone at one stage, the inevitable question that is asked is, “when’s the next thing happening.”

But here is what I wonder: Is marriage and kids a stage or an activity? If it’s a stage/phase then it must have a beginning and an ending. Clearly being a wife and a mother really never ends till you reach the grave. (I’m not even going in the direction of divorce…that’s too complicated for this time of the night!) So if being a mother never ends once it starts, is it a phase or a stage or rather is it an activity?

I am begining to think that studying, working, getting married, having children, bringing them up, sending them to school and so on, these are the activities in our lives. And therefore, there is a time for each activity and I think the times and seasons for each activity is determined largely by God and each individual. And there is nothing wrong with not wanting the activity at all or not doing the activity at the pre-determined time.

“The sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older, shorter of breath, one day closer to death” goes the song.

And so I am determined to live my life with contentment. Content with the activities that I am engaged in at this particular time in my particular life. Not pre-empting people’s activities with inquisitive questions and not pressured by people’s pre-emptive questions about my future activities.

The added bonus of thinking like this? What I do then has ceased to bear any relation to who I am! My identity has been separated from my activity. And I can finally step back, see who I am and enjoy what I’m doing. I can enjoy living again!