First It Gets Dark

As a child, I was a perfectionist. I stressed over whether my story was good enough, whether I was smart enough to be in the advanced math class, over whether the teachers at my new school would like me. I was a rules-follower, because if I ever broke a rule, it might damage my perfect, permanent record.

I had to be perfect, you see, so that I could be good enough. If I slipped up, made a mistake, received a reprimand–it would be a terrifying chink in my armor, a crack that might let someone see just how useless and unworthy I really was inside.

I grew up in a society–our society–that is obsessed with perfection. Perfect skin, perfect legs, perfect school records, perfect behavior records, perfect everything. That’s what it takes to be good enough.

Make a mistake, do something wrong, get a blot on your record: Damaged goods. Next.

It was not always so, and is not always so in all cultures.O.P.W. Fredericks of The Lives You Touch reminded me recently (on It’s How the Holy Gets In) of this quote (sometimes attributed to Barbara Bloom):

“When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.”

One summer, Carey and I attended a camp-out in the mountains. I’ll admit, I was worried: All of the attendees except us were from a church, and I could not see myself wanting to spend 48 hours in company of perfectly perfect churchy church people.

A few days before, however, I found out that this particular group was mostly made up of “recovering” folks. Recovering alcoholics, recovering former prostitutes. Damaged people, learning to fill their gaps with gold, their dark with light. Suddenly, the weekend looked a lot brighter.

There’s something about a person who has BEEN THERE. Who has been down THAT road, the road with the holes in it and the dealers on the street corner and the gunshots and the desperation. The road that puts holes in tires and holes in hearts. There’s just something special about a person who has been there and is coming back out again, toward the light.

I believe God is like those Japanese artists, that (if we ask for help) God takes our broken tires and our broken hearts and puts them back together, mending the cracks with gold.

Or maybe God mends with crystal. You know, to let the holy in.

I started this essay thinking about the lessons I’ve learned during the first 10 days of my 30-day one-hour-only challenge. The biggest thing I hoped to learn from it, is letting go. Letting it be okay if my work isn’t perfect. Letting good enough be good enough.

So that’s where I started, and the entry went somewhere else entirely. And that’s okay too. Good enough. Better than good enough. It’s yours now, and you can mend its many holes and imperfections any way you like. I hope you’ll choose something beautiful.

(If you Google “How the Holy Gets In” in images, the first several pictures that pop up look like this:


(Look, I know that’s probably some pop cultural reference that Heather-With-Her-Nose-In-A-Book doesn’t get, but it doesn’t matter. It’s like Google knows. This is how the holy gets in: First it gets dark.)

4 thoughts on “First It Gets Dark

  1. Hello Heather,

    Words can be like the ripples created by stones that have been dropped into still water. We can never know how far they will reach or the impact they might have on the lives they touch.

  2. Pingback: Play Along ¶ Writer for Life

  3. I have a post scheduled to drop tomorrow on my blog that talks a little bit about the childhood perfectionism you and I share. ;) I wrote it over the weekend so it’s kinda funny that I’m seeing something so similar on your blog today!

  4. Pingback: If I Waited for Perfection ¶ Writer for Life

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