Tag Archives: mothercitymurmours

Continuous flow

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I’ve been reflecting on what it means to be a more integrated person. The temptation for me is to feel divided in myself between London and Cape Town, to feel I have two lives, two worlds that don’t relate and that I have to choose between. That I have cut off one in order to fully engage with the other. I found that during my visit to London, I spent much of the time feeling disconnected, an outsider, a fake.

But during the same visit a wise friend challenged me. She said I don’t have to feel divided, that I am one person in both places, with one fluid life between the places: one person, who happens to have friends, family and loved ones in different continents. I can be fully me in both places.

I feel that my heart and the journey of my spiritual and emotional life, is being held and directed by God. In the book of Proverbs in the Bible, there is beautiful imagery to describe this, my “heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.” (Proverbs 21:1). A dear friend shared this verse with me the day I arrived back in Cape Town and I felt it fitted so amazingly with what I had been thinking and feeling. I know that through all this God has my heart safe and is guiding me and helping me to grow. The journey is a continuous flow in both places.

Inevitably when you move countries there are some things and relationships that are lost or distanced and there is certainly a genuine grief and loss that I need to acknowledge in the ‘leaving and cleaving’. And yet, I am glad that there are special friendships that I carry with me: sponsored by the magic of Skype. My heart’s journey and myself as a person has to be integrated: my character consistent and my journey continuous, in both places.

“You can kiss your family and friends goodbye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world, but a world lives in you.”

+ F. Buechner, Telling the Truth

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Beauty in imperfection

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Photo: BBC/Reuters

This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had to wait on the gangway of her plane after she landed in Prague, while soldiers adjusted the red carpet.

That amazes me, it actually made me chuckle, and I even caught myself with a racist thought. Particular European nations do seem to have perfectionist tendancies. Isn’t it worse to make her wait than to have a slightly crooked carpet?!

And yet maybe it’s not so far from my own actions sometimes: missing the point of what’s important, in order to get something ‘just so’?

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A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault.  ~John Henry Newman

He that will have a perfect brother must resign himself to remain brotherless.  ~Italian Proverb

You see, when weaving a blanket, an Indian woman leaves a flaw in the weaving of that blanket to let the soul out.  ~Martha Graham

Ring the bells that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in. ~Leonard Cohen

Imperfection is Beauty – Marilyn Monroe

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. (The Bible, 2 Corinthians chapter 4, verse 7. New Living Translation)

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Reflecting on a passage in the bible which speaks about ‘treasure in jars of clay’ comforts me about not only the inevitability but also the beauty of imperfection. If a jar of clay containing a light is perfect then you don’t see the light much. If the jar is cracked and imperfect then the light shines through. The ‘treasure’ in me is the life, light and power of Jesus. I’m ‘cracked’, imperfect, and so it’s clear that who I am and any good that comes from me is because of the light inside, not because of me. And that’s a good thing.

In fact another snippet from the bible goes even further – God saying: “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) When I am feeling weak, having come to the end of myself – to the end of my own strength and ideas, it’s often at that point that I realise I can’t do it alone and invite God into the situation, and he shifts the whole thing around. Then I know I can’t claim the credit, it was clearly Him not me. That’s when his strength is able to work more freely and be seen even better through my weakness. So maybe some falability, weakness, imperfection is a good thing?

So much of what happens around me and so much of what I do is driven by a fear of failure, a fear of getting things wrong, a fear of letting people down, a fear of what people will think. But letting go of that fear is making me more free, more able to live life to the full. And when I get things wrong and let people down, I have to swallow my pride and say sorry, admit that I am not perfect and live with it (I’m not good at that but I am trying to learn). And then there is room for the light to shine out rather than a perfect uncracked pot to be celebrated.

Do you ever let a fear of failure hold you back? What might happen if you started to let go of that fear?

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“Congratulations!  You’re not perfect!  It’s ridiculous to want to be perfect anyway.  But then, everybody’s ridiculous sometimes, except perfect people.  You know what perfect is?  Perfect is not eating or drinking or talking or moving a muscle or making even the teensiest mistake.  Perfect is never doing anything wrong – which means never doing anything at all.  Perfect is boring!  So you’re not perfect!  Wonderful!  Have fun!  Eat things that give you bad breath!  Trip over your own shoelaces!  Laugh!  Let somebody else laugh at you!  Perfect people never do any of those things.  All they do is sit around and sip weak tea and think about how perfect they are.  But they’re really not one-hundred-percent perfect anyway.  You should see them when they get the hiccups!  Phooey!  Who needs ’em?  You can drink pickle juice and imitate gorillas and do silly dances and sing stupid songs and wear funny hats and be as imperfect as you please – people like that are a lot more fun than perfect people any day of the week.”  ~Stephen Manes, Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days!

Does “anal-retentive” have a hyphen?  ~Anon

Cape Town light

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The light in this city, the ‘Mother City’ of South Africa, seems brighter, cleaner, crisper than in England.

I feel lighter when I’m here.

It’s difficult to describe. I’m still me, but more me, a more peaceful me.

 

With the visual space, up to the mountain and out to sea, comes mental space. In London sometimes I would feel pressed in on every side by buildings, by things man-made, by people rushing, busy-ness and pressure, without space to breathe, space to think, space to be.

I feel there’s space here.