I’ve struggled to write over the last month and a half. Life has been kinda hard and I haven’t had the emotional energy for it. Looking at my collection of unfinished drafts, nothing seemed to resonate. Nothing felt *true* enough to be writing about.

So I didn’t publish anything.

Nothing felt true enough to be writing about last month – so I didn’t. Photo credit: Ashley West Edwards.

It did pain me a little to miss my already unambitious target of publishing something once a month. Then I stumbled upon a kernel of an idea from 2021: perfection vs redemption.

The context back then was COVID-19 derailing everything, including my wedding day.* Three years on, the “perfection vs redemption” theme might once again be the most real thing for me right now.

Perfection, or lack thereof

Sometimes it seems strange to me how much we can so ardently long and strive for perfection. I see it in the landscape photography and lifestyle influencers of Instagram. I see it in immaculate homes that have been furnished and decorated for sale. I have felt that urge in editing my own work.

Refine, refine, refine – till it’s just right.

Chasing that perfect Insta photo for that perfect Insta grid. Photo credit: Maddi Bazzocco.

But I abandoned perfection a long time ago. It wasn’t worth being OCD about things or aceing every exam. The ROI on all that was too low, probably because perfection is impossible – that is to say it is impossible for humans.

Perfection is divine. Perfection is the proof that I am not God, the standard I can’t meet which reminds me of my limitations. 

Perhaps the very longing for perfection is really a longing for God? The sense that anything any of us do could always be better says something about our internal compass and framework. The very concept of Perfection – the fact that humans can imagine perfection and infinity although we cannot attain or grasp it – points me to the existence of God.

Redemption makes a better story

Redemption, too, is divine. What I love and find comforting about the Bible is that it is less about perfection and more about redemption. Jesus came precisely because we can’t save ourselves. Also, look what God did with the deceitful Jacob, the violent and cowardly Moses, even the lusty and stubborn Samson. 

There is more beauty in the cracked lines of handcrafted kintsugi ceramics than in a flawlessly symmetrical plate churned out by a machine in an IKEA factory.

Photo credit: Motoki Tonn.

There is more beauty in the journey of someone who overcame adversity and setbacks to survive, than in the linear upward trajectory of someone who comfortably achieved more and more each year of their life. Does anyone want to hear about the rich private school kid who remained rich and went on to have kids he, in turn, sent to private school?

In my work in nonprofit communications, the stories we share are not stories of perfection, but of redemption. Despite the persecution and violence that ordinary men and women are subjected to, despite being broken, their strength today is more beautiful for their overcoming, for the scars they now bear, for the strength they found in the face of adversity.

There’s no story without a struggle. I hear this over and over again as I learn about novel writing. I know this innately to be true.

Don’t get me wrong – it would be better if there were no abuse, no persecution, no poverty. I can’t say their suffering “was worth it” when what was endured is unspeakable. But when I witness a work of redemption, the unique beauty of that gives rise to a different category of praise.

Redemption for now

We need more stories like that. We need the hope of redemption now more than ever, don’t we? When I notice there are an awful lot of reports of knife crimes in the headlines lately. When I read yet another update from Gaza. When I look at the health struggles of those closest to me. Everything is so painfully broken.

Photo credit: Colin Lloyd.

When things seem to be falling apart, I like to remember the redemption that has been threaded through my life. Some of it is pretty trivial, but it still gives me hope and reminds me the bigger story is still happening. This bigger story is not finished yet, but as a whole it will be much better than the current moment suggests.

I joke that I wasted too much of my youth studying law when I never wanted to be a lawyer. But over the last decade, I’ve seen more clearly that there are several reasons not to regret my law degree.

I have often wondered whether I left any sort of a positive impact from the years I spent in Ecuador. But every so often I receive reminders of how I’ve touched the lives of others, and how my time there led me to one thing after another, to where I am today.

I’m convinced that lockdowns and health challenges have only strengthened my marriage. Even as we grieve cancelling our planned second winter in Jindabyne, I feel grateful that our first Jindy season last year was itself a redemptive time.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is: life reminds us that we are not perfect and that our lives can never be perfect, progressing precisely according to plan. Still, we can hope for redemption, both in this life and the next. And here’s a thought: if we can play a part in creating redemptive moments for each other, then wouldn’t that be one of the most beautiful things we can do? Beautiful, with hints of the divine.

Photo credit: Dmitry Ratushny.

Header image: ???? cdd2.

* The original draft of this blog post didn’t actually refer to the pandemic, though they were written a couple of weeks after the second Sydney lockdown began. The lines I had were, curiously, about how foreigners were among the Israelites as they exited Egypt, and how Old Testament sacrifices had to be perfect. Suffice to say not much of the original text remains in this published version.

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