Perfect Imperfection

As a course name, Heart Longings, perfectly evoked the sense of excitement and possibility I brought to the class. The phrase also conjured in my mind a heart-led journey toward something long-awaited, hoped for, yet never quite obtainable. Those were the images that stirred in my heart and mind when, in 2022, I encountered Shalem’s Heart Longings: An Invitation to the Contemplative Path.

At the time, I was longing to explore the contemplative path in community but brought no other specific expectations. I was prepared to learn, practice, and gather with others consistently. I hoped that my classmates shared my desire for this imagined beloved community. While the eight-month journey gifted me with many things I’d prepared for, Divine Love also met me early and consistently in that heart-led exploration with a gift I’d not expected: self love. Within the safety of Shalem’s Invitation to the Contemplative Path, God invited me to love in myself what I’d not loved, but instead rejected, criticized, hid, denied, grieved, and desperately worked to change—my human imperfection.
 
Using the wisdom and insights of mature contemplatives, creative prayer practices, and thoughtful exercises (all part of the Heart Longings curriculum), the Divine gently and clearly showed me it was time for love and compassionate to replace my life-long practice of railing against my human imperfection. Gerald May, in The Awakened Heart: Opening Yourself to the Love You Need, and Christine Valters Paintner, in The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom, both invited me to lay down my striving, self-criticism, and continuous self-improvement projects. These had become disguises for my own ego, and May and Paintner instead taught me to embrace emptiness and humility.

May’s continual theme of Love’s transforming power spoke most forcefully to me as he revealed that the secret of living in this Love-bathed relationship with God is “to enter the spaciousness of our emptiness instead of trying to fill it up.” I heard this as an invitation to accept all the parts of me, especially the imperfections that I am ashamed of and long to change or improve. Paintner suggested that humility is the antidote to perfectionism. She writes, “humility is eliminating facades and embracing vulnerability—allowing ourselves to be seen without social convention and presenting ourselves in all of our nakedness.” Ouch!! Paintner’s bold assertions stirred my soul with the possibilities held within them. Her descriptions of humility, and May’s call to enter the emptiness, both encouraged my listening heart and called me toward the contemplative practice I consider most basic and most challenging—BE HERE NOW compassionately with whatever shows up!
 
Throughout Heart Longings I processed God’s invitation by expressing it as a mantra, blessing, and a prayer.

Mantra:
“Rather than FILL my emptiness with compulsive behavior, I will FEEL my emptiness as the gateway to freedom from the tyranny of perfection.”

Blessing/poem:
Blessed are the imperfect ones, for they will experience Perfect Love.
Blessed are the strivers, for they will rest in Holy Completion.
Blessed are those who hesitate and second guess, for they will know the way of True Wisdom.
Blessed are the efficient doers, for they will dwell in Abundant, Extravagant Stillness.
Blessed are those who walk with Humility, for they will meet God in the Emptiness.

Prayer/Collect
Perfect Imperfection
To the Perfect One
Who holds imperfection within the Perfect.
I long to love my imperfection.
To appreciate its antecedents and infuse Mystical Hope into its unfolding.
Thank you oh Perfect One for your Perfect Love.
 
Divine Love met me again and again in all aspects of Heart Longings’ well-crafted journey with this invitation to lay down my perfectionist tendencies and love fully my imperfection as the path to wholeness, trusting that any needed change will unfold as a grace-filled gift. Heart Longings has been a heart-led journey to a depth I’d not imagined.

August 08, 2023 by Janet Hudson 11 Comments
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AnneMarie Ryan
AnneMarie Ryan
9 months ago

Janet, thank you for sharing this and showing how to live it!

Kerry Reed Ellett
Kerry Reed Ellett
9 months ago

Beautifully written, Janet. Thank you.
I love your description of “the path to wholeness” involving a trust that needed change will unfold through grace-filled gifts. Indeed, life itself is exactly that, a grace-filled gift.

Savannah Kate Coffey
Savannah Kate Coffey
9 months ago

I am blessed by reading your words today, Janet. I feel nourished by the blessing/poem you wrote, especially this line: “Blessed are the imperfect ones, for they will experience perfect love.” Thank you for this!

Frank Sasinowski
Frank Sasinowski
9 months ago

Janet thank you for your mantra which I hope to adopt as mine as well:
“Rather than FILL my emptiness with compulsive behavior, I will FEEL my emptiness as my gateway to freedom from the tyranny of perfection”.

John Monteleone
John Monteleone
9 months ago

Congratulations on graduating from Heart Longings and sharing your wisdom and inspiring words. Congratulations on being a recovered perfectionist, what a wonderful feeling that must be!
You have inspired me to write this blessing.
Blessed are those who have ventured into the emptiness, for they will experience the spaciousness, timelessness and love which is God.
So much to contemplate. So much to appreciate. Thank you again, and again and again.

Ann F Stanford
Ann F Stanford
9 months ago

Thanks for your comments, Janet. I hear you!

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