May 13, 2011

Something new!

So, I was prodded by a friend to keep up my blog. I heaved a long sigh, not because I don't want to be writing on my blog, updating everyone about my life, and telling pointless analogical stories, but because I know that I get carried away with doing such things, and the next thing I know I have been writing for hours upon hours something that one of my six "followers" might maybe read. Ah, well. I guess there's that one.

Anyway, I have not written anything new... at least not yet. But while you wait, here is a little something for your immediate reading pleasure. This is an essay that I wrote last fall in my creative non-fiction class. Let me know what you think. I'm always looking for ways to improve my writing:

Imperfectly Perfect

I have been thinking about Jesus lately—wondering, really. I believe that he was perfect, that he never did a single thing that wasn’t in cadence with his Father’s will. He never sinned, never made a moral mistake. I don’t know how it is possible, but I accept it as truth just the way that I accept the fact that my heart keeps beating, pumping blood and oxygen through all of my many extremities; I don’t understand how that works either, but I know that it does, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to sit here and write at all, let alone meditate upon the complexities of the Savior’s mortality. But that is precisely what I am doing.

If the Savior truly lived and breathed and walked upon this earth, then he had a fallible body just like me: fully bendable, breakable, bruise-able, scratch-able, scrape-able, sting-able, burn-able, sprain and strain-able, and not always completely controllable.

I thought about this while walking to school today. My shoes were a little too big, my legs a little too short, and my gait just a little too left-veering. As a result, I tripped over my own feet not once, not twice, but three times in the course of this twelve-minute walk. It is not my fault that my shoes are too big; I always buy the same size--a six--but shoe-sizing seems to be very temperamental these days. Sometimes a six is too small, and I end up with blisters on the pads of my poor feet. Sometimes a six is too big, causing the end of one of the blasted things to catch on the ground before my toes actually touch down on the path. This must be the fault of the shoe-maker or the shoe-seller or whoever decided that all size sixes weren’t to be universal. But the boy walking past me in the opposite direction doesn’t know this; he’s thinking I’ve jumbled my feet as I started staring into his big, brown eyes, and daydreaming about wedding colors instead of focusing on placing my right foot in front of my left as I quickened my stride to cross the street. He is wrong, of course; my shoes are just too big. Still, I made a mistake: I tripped when I clearly didn’t intend to. And suddenly I am thinking about physical mistakes--how they aren’t sins, but they certainly do not convey our normal idea of perfection.

I find myself trying to imagine Jesus’s shoes. John says they had a “latchet” which he didn’t deem himself worthy to undo (Mark 1:7). Beyond that, I have no clue what they were like, though most people paint him in a pair of brown sandals. I wonder how one went about acquiring a pair of shoes in those days. Did the makers measure out every individual’s foot and custom-make their shoes for them? If so, I suppose Jesus would not have had problems with shoes that were too big or too small, at least not after he had stopped growing. There is a chance that when he was still a boy he grew out of one pair and into the next, or a time when Mary, like my own mother, got him a pair just a little too big so that he could grow into them and she wouldn’t have to buy a new pair as soon. Correct size or not, sandals can be oppositional when you are trying to walk. The toe of your front foot can dig itself right down into the sand, so that when you push off with it and begin swinging your back foot forward to take its place, you are propelled, neck over knees, in a full tumble. Believe me; I’ve been there. Given how much the Savior walked during his ministry--from this city to that one, in the mountains, through gardens, on water, and finally up a hill--it is hard to believe that he never stumbled, slipped, or stubbed his big toe even once.

I sometimes imagine the Man being imperfect in other ways, too, like his physical appearance. After all, the people of his time were often disappointed upon meeting him because he didn’t seem to be anything special. And the Bible mentions that his “visage was marred” (Isaiah 52:14). I don’t think his looks made him stand out in a crowd; nothing distinguished him from all the other civilians who were heading to the market, to school, to work, to church, or even to the home of a secret lover. But maybe he had a scar on his chin from falling out of a tree or permanent calluses on his hands from working with wood in Joseph’s shop. It is possible he had crooked teeth or a really big nose or eyebrows which crept horizontally along the whole length of his forehead, looking like one long, hairy caterpillar. After all, it is man who “looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Sam. 16: 7); would an imperfect image keep him from being a perfect man?

I sometimes even wonder if Jesus was the kind of guy who bothered people with the way he dressed. I could see him showing up to meetings in hand-me-downs from his cousin, John, while everyone else arrived in custom-fit, tailored robes from the recent spring catalog. After all, Christ was a mere carpenter’s son. He did not have money for “costly apparel,” nor, I assume, did he care about such trivial things. And it does seem that Jesus had a knack for offending people. He let a woman wash his feet with her hair, and everyone turned up their noses in disgust. He healed a man on the Sabbath, and onlookers were outraged. He walked through a field, picking corn to eat, and the community went stark-raving mad. I’m sure that he didn't intend to affect these people in such a negative way. Does the fact that he didn’t mean it make it a mistake? Does his making this kind of mistake make him imperfect? I don’t think so. After all, what is a physical blunder or two against your eternal spiritual progression?

I believe that Jesus lived so that he could experience mortality; so that he could understand everything we go through, including awkwardness and embarrassment and discomfort, and that he was not spared from those things just because he was without sin or mental blemish. In fact, my faith in him increases as I think of him this way—suffering the pains and afflictions that come with being mortal--physically imperfect, unbalanced, misunderstood--and still never conscientiously making a wrong choice. I am in awe when I think of this, and I know that I have a long way to go to become like him. After all, I doubt he pointed his finger at the shoe-makers for the shoddy work they did on his sandals as he took a nasty spill, the way I tend to do. But of course, this is important only if you believe the Man was capable of such mishaps.

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