/tran(t)sˈfôrm/

verb
1.  make a thorough or dramatic change in the form, appearance, or character of.
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The word “transform” is thought to come from an Old French word “transformer” (change in form of) or quite possibly the Latin word “transformare” (change in shape).

 

I’ve been pondering this word today because well, I personally use it a lot, and we use it a lot at New Life Fellowship, and also because it’s a loaded word.  In our American culture, the word “transformation” gets used for outer appearance a lot, which is fine and dandy since it’s a great word to describe a significant visual change.  If someone loses a lot of weight, gets a totally different haircut, or changes their entire wardrobe, we generally refer to those instances as dramatic transformations.

Today, however, I’m thinking more about inner transformation.  As in, what causes inner transformation? And before you jump to answer that question, let’s pause for a moment.

…..

I wrote about Richard Rohr’s impact on my spiritual formation in my last post.  If you’re interested at all about transformation, I highly recommend you read his scapegoating series of blogs starting here.  Here’s a highlight (oh but I wish I could basically repost the whole thing!):

We are generally inclined to either create victims of others or play the victim ourselves, both of which are no solution but only perpetuate the problem. Jesus instead holds the pain—even becomes the pain—until it transforms him into a higher state, which we rightly call the risen life.

The crucified and resurrected Jesus shows us how to do this without denying, blaming, or projecting pain elsewhere. In fact, there is no “elsewhere.” Jesus is the victim in an entirely new way because he receives our hatred and does not return it, nor does he play the victim for his own empowerment. We find no self-pity or resentment in Jesus. He never asks his followers to avenge his murder. He suffers and does not make others suffer because of it. He does not use his suffering and death as power over others to punish them, but as power for others to transform them.

Jesus is the forgiving victim, which really is the only hope of our world, because most of us sooner or later will be victimized on some level. It is the familiar story line of an unjust and often cruel humanity. The cross is a healing message about the violence of humanity, and we tragically turned it into the violence of God, who we thought needed “a sacrifice” to love us.

An utterly new attitude (Spirit) has been released in history; it’s a spirit of love, compassion, and forgiveness. As Jesus prayed on the cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

I’m not even going to begin trying to explain any of this.  I confess I don’t fully understand this concept of transformation through pain and suffering but when I get a glimpse of it once in awhile, I know it’s the kind of life I want to live.  I usually get stuck in the pain of knowing that pain is required for transformation.  But I guess it’s a start.

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All Things Rohr

Today is our monthly DAWG (Day Alone With God) and I decided to read all the Richard Rohr I could get my hands on in this given period of time.  I am not doing a good job getting through it. Every sentence is pretty much rocking my world. I have to pause, re-read, ponder, read again, ponder some more, write some thoughts down, ponder some more… at this rate, I’m gonna read one whole paragraph by the end of today.

If I could point to one person who has impacted my spirituality the most this past year, it would have to be Richard Rohr. There is a part of me that wishes he wasn’t an old, white man, but he speaks truth like no other author I’ve read as of late. Plus he has a dog and really, he’s like a sweet old grandpa, with lots of wisdom.  Lots and lots of wisdom.

As I enter my late 30s, I’ve consistently found that I desire better language to articulate my values and beliefs. I want to express what I’ve known to be true but didn’t have the words to explain effectively.  Richard Rohr has done this for me time and time again.  I understand the importance of reading widely, so I will continue to read books written by people of different backgrounds, ethnicities, belief systems… but for now, I’m absolutely grateful for Richard Rohr and all the ways God is using him to speak deeply to me.

Terrific (or Terrible) Tuesday

Will it be a Terrific or Terrible Tuesday tomorrow?  As we’ve gotten closer and closer to November 8, I’ve noticed my heartbeat starting to race and my blood pressure going up.  I’ve had to do multiple moments of intentional silence/breathing/meditation/prayer to get myself to a calm place.

Presidential Election Day is like a holiday in our house.  We compare it to the Olympics, except, of course, with much more at stake.  It happens every 4 years and it can be very exciting depending on who’s running and who we’re rooting for. This year, the word “excitement” doesn’t quite capture my emotion. To prepare for tomorrow and appropriately for this season, we’ve watched Recount (about the Bush/Gore voting debacle in 2000 – we HIGHLY recommend this HBO movie), we bought pineapples & ginger ale (in case we get indigestion), and Steve even took the day off.

If you’re still undecided about who to vote for, this website is very helpful.  Definitely check it out to gain more clarity on where you stand on the myriad of issues that are out there.  We’ve noticed a significant decline in media coverage of important policies/issues as tomorrow draws near, which is really the opposite of what should be happening.  Steve and I have discussed the issues ad nauseum with each other and with countless others and we’re very clear on who to vote for.  The website confirmed our positions.

Anyways, my dear husband, who analyzes the Presidential Election like it’s a rare sporting event, wrote this simple guideline so we can assess Election Day as it unfolds.  I call them “SteveNotes,” a little cheat-sheet for Election Day.  Here it is:

Election Day is 1 day away. If you wanna sound smart on Election Day, here’s what you need to know in 5 minutes or less:

1. Trump must take all 6 of the following states if he wants to win:
Arizona
Iowa
Ohio
Florida
North Carolina
Nevada

2. Even if Trump takes all 6 states above, he also needs to win at least 1 of the following:
New Hampshire
Colorado
Michigan
Pennsylvania
Wisconsin
Minnesota

3. Don’t worry about the other states. New York will be blue, Georgia will be red, and only 3 people live in Alaska.

4. If you must play devil’s advocate/mathmagician, various combos of the swing states will work for Trump to win. However, the above scenario is the most realistic.

5. Control of the U.S. Senate is also up for grabs. Democrats need to win 4 (if Clinton wins) or 5 (if Trump wins) states below to control the Senate:
Wisconsin
Pennsylvania
Nevada
New Hampshire
Missouri
Indiana
North Carolina

6. No matter what happens in 2016, the U.S. Senate will almost certainly go to the Republicans in 2018.

7. Don’t think about the U.S. House of Representatives. It’s a virtual lock for the Republicans in 2016. But 2018 could be a toss-up.

My Best Decision (Part 4 of 4)

This is the final post of a series I’ve written about my husband and best friend, Steve, for his birthday (today!).  We’ve been blown away by all of you who have told us that you’ve enjoyed this series.  Thank you for reading and encouraging us!  For those of you who didn’t see the earlier posts, here are the previous parts of the series:

PART 1 – Intro/Background

PART 2 – Early dating relationship

PART 3 – Getting to know Steve

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And to the final part…

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Selfie at our wedding reception, 10/18/14

 

Since Steve and I have been married (it’s been 1 year and 10 months), I’ve wondered and also secretly questioned what our marriage would be like.  Would things become mundane, would we become less loving toward one another, would we get too comfortable, would we get sick of each other…

It’s been less than 2 years so I realize we have a long road ahead, but I can honestly say that we are still each other’s favorite part of the day, and we try very hard to make each other feel loved and lovable.  When I see Steve at the end of the work day, I know I’m home.  When we greet each other, our eyes light up. The closest thing I can compare it to is how a puppy greets its owner when they come home, as silly as that might sound.  We say “I love you so much” to each other multiple times a day.  And I mean it every time.  I don’t want Steve to ever feel like he’s not loved.  Because that’s what he does for me.   When I’m hurting, sometimes all it takes is one hug from Steve and I feel like maybe it’s going to be all right after all.

I’ve said a lot of nice things about Steve and our marriage so you might be thinking that we have a really good thing.  And it’s true; we do.  But I don’t think a good marriage means that we’re happy all the time.  Anyone who is married knows it takes hard work and it seriously sucks when there are conflicts/disagreements.  We have to have difficult conversations that feel uncomfortable once in awhile (I really hate when that happens).  But I believe because we are healthier individuals than before and we know ourselves better, we try our best not to hurt each other and always try to put each other first.  That really makes things easier on the few tough days we have.  I’m sure we will have more hurdles ahead of us but we try to stay present and enjoy each other now.  We are aware that we are not perfect.  And we don’t expect each other to be perfect.  I could say so much more on this but maybe that’s for another post.  I also think going to New Life helps because they make marriage seem like the hardest thing ever (which is probably true) and so I expected this to be super, duper difficult.  Turns out when you expect something to be the hardest thing ever, it can only go up from there. 😉

I could never have imagined that I would marry someone like Steve.  And I also cannot imagine anymore what it would be like to be married to anyone other than Steve.  I don’t want to imagine any other life.  I want to appreciate and be present to the life I have been given.  Steve has been and continues to be a true gift.  The best gift I have ever received and the best decision I have ever made.

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Sweet Tea, this is your birthday so I should really be giving you a gift but what can I say, you have been the greatest gift to me.  I am so truly grateful that God created you and sent you my way.  Happy birthday.  I love you always.  -Your Sweet Pea

P.S.  Here’s a little video I put together for you.  Hope you enjoy.

[For context for those of you who made it to this point of the blog series, during our engagement period, Steve had his groomsmen compete for the Best Man position in, what he called, “The Best Man Olympics.”  I really don’t know anyone else who would do this besides Steve.  If you know him at all, you’ll know he’s an Olympics fanatic (so this has been an exciting few weeks for us to say the least) and he felt it was a great opportunity at the time to incorporate that somehow in his pre-wedding shenanigans.  hahaha… I love him so much!]

My Best Decision (Part 3 of 4)

This is a continuation from a little series I’m writing about my husband and best friend, Steve, for his birthday tomorrow.  You can find PART 1 here.  And PART 2 here.

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Steve and me at the Highline, also one of our early dates

 

As I wrestled with the inner turmoil of feeling loved and also feeling insecure, Steve kept on just as he had from the beginning.  He was so consistent even as I doubted him and questioned his motives.  He never wavered in his posture towards me even as a part of me tried to run away or push back.  He was generous and patient towards me in so many ways. One month turned to one year turned to two years.  I kept waiting for him to change or show his “true” colors.  He never changed his loving ways and he never changed who he is.  He worked hard to earn and maintain my trust.  As much as my fears held me back, I pressed forward.  This was too good to let go of and I couldn’t allow myself to give up.

As I got to know Steve better and better, I began to believe that the person he was showing me is who he really is.  And I fell in love.

If you know Steve, you know pretty quickly that he knows how to have fun and loves to relax.  He laughs at his own jokes and mine, too.  He’s very sure about how to get himself to a happy place and he works hard to keep me happy, too.  God knows I need it.  I was sapped of joy in my life (just listen to some of my songs) from very early on in my childhood and I didn’t even realize how desperately I needed to be with someone who knew how to play, laugh and not take life too seriously.  I am also a work horse.  I don’t know how to relax or rest, or take a break.  Steve reminds me regularly to rest and take breaks.  Basically, I need Steve in my life.  Every day.  And my therapist reminds me of that.

Steve is so true to himself.  It’s like he doesn’t know how to pretend at all.  That absolutely boggles my mind because for the longest time that’s ALL I knew how to be, to pretend.  Pretend to be happy, pretend to like accounting, pretend that life is okay, pretend that I was okay with people violating me with words and actions, pretend I know myself, pretend I know who God is, pretend to be holy, pretend, pretend, pretend.  Steve is so sure of who he is and he isn’t afraid to show it.  Sure, sometimes that can get him into trouble, but most of the time it’s rather refreshing to be around.

Steve is an open, generous person.  When I say generous, I don’t necessarily mean financially (though he is definitely that also, which has in turn helped me to be a more giving person).  He is one of the most generous people I have ever known in his posture toward others.  He doesn’t care much about being liked (or those who are very liked), but on the other hand, he definitely notices and goes out of his way to embrace people who may not necessarily be socially accepted or belong.  Even as I type that sentence, I get teary-eyed.  He really reminds me of Jesus in that way.  When I bring that up to him sometimes, I realize he’s not doing it intentionally.  That’s just who he is!  He is able to be so present with people who are routinely ignored/avoided in society.  I cannot say how many times I’ve watched him acknowledge a homeless person, engage in conversation with people who are hard to talk to, include those who would probably be excluded in social settings.  To him, they’re just like him, and me, and you.  Created uniquely and wonderfully by the hand of God.

Steve reminds me that it’s better to exhibit grace rather than judgment.  When I start to get judgmental or say something critical about someone, he brings up a perspective that I haven’t considered and helps me to pause and go inward in that moment.  Steve tells me “it’s okay”  quite regularly and often, especially when I say or think that it’s not okay, he/she is not okay, and really that I’m not okay.  For someone who doesn’t let herself make mistakes and has very little grace for herself, I really need to hear that.  Every day.

As I got to know Steve more in all these various ways, suddenly one day, I just got it.  God was showing me his love, his acceptance, his grace… through Steve.  Steve was the direct conduit through which I would continually experience the loving nature of God.  People experience this practically in many different ways and for me, it is through Steve.  I opened my eyes and there he was.

Then one day, Steve took me to the place where we first met and he asked me to marry him.  I said yes.  It was a no brainer.  I would be a fool not to marry this guy.

(To be continued)

My Best Decision (Part 2 of 4)

This is a continuation from a little series I’m writing about my husband and best friend, Steve, for his birthday on Monday.  You can find PART 1 here.

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One of our first dates… a mass pillow fight in Washington Square Park. It was a surprise date and I absolutely loved it. 🙂

 

I haven’t shared this with very many people but very early on in our dating relationship, while I drove home after spending time with Steve, I would suddenly break down in tears and have to pull the car over to the side of the road so I can cry for awhile.  The first couple of times this happened, it was hard to process why I was crying.  We had wonderful times together, lots of fun.  We watched each other’s favorite movies, we would quiz each other on Saved By the Bell trivia, try different foods, talk about life and sometimes about nothing…  so I knew they couldn’t be bad tears.  When I thought about it a bit more, I realized I was moved to tears because I just felt so loved by Steve, in a way I had never felt before.

Steve was a gentleman towards me, and expressed his feelings to me freely.  He would hold my hand and give me hugs.  He listened to my long-winded analyses about the stuff of life.  He was silly, told great stories and made me laugh.  What I liked most about Steve was that he simply knew who he was.  He didn’t pretend to be anyone else.  He fully embraced himself and it was fascinating to me.  No frills, no drama, Steve is who he is, and he doesn’t care much about what anyone else thinks about him.  That is liberating for me.  I care way too much about what others think of me, and that’s probably why it took me so long to discover who I really am.  I was living out someone else’s life for me instead of my own for many, many years.  With Steve, I felt free to be myself.  I felt his acceptance of me, just as I am.

Those tears in the car weren’t all good though.  After awhile, I realized I was also crying because I was absolutely terrified.  It had been a long time since I started to have such strong feelings for someone and it scared me to death that I might have to trust someone again.  What if he decided he didn’t like me anymore?  What if this thing doesn’t work out?  What if my heart gets broken?  What if this… what if that…  My fears and insecurities surfaced almost immediately along with the feelings of being accepted and loved.  I wasn’t sure if I would last in this relationship with these kinds of feelings.  I also felt like I wasn’t being fair to Steve.  He was so steady and so reassuring and just so loving.

As much as I wanted to continue in the relationship, I also knew I wanted to run away.  Far, far away.

(To be continued)

My Best Decision (Part 1 of 4)

I’ve made some good decisions in my life and some pretty bad ones.  Marrying Steve is the best decision I have ever made, hands down, and that has been truer every single day we have been together.  He’s not perfect (sorry, sweet tea 😉), but I am convinced he’s perfect for me.  It’s his birthday on Monday and we’re both very low on “Receiving Gifts” in our Love Languages, so I thought I’d write a post (or a few posts) about why I love and appreciate Steve so much.  I’m not the best writer but I can articulate things better and capture my thoughts more clearly when I write as opposed to speaking.  So here’s my birthday gift to the love of my life, Stephen Lee Yeung.

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First, a little background.

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In my 20s I was broken, confused, and extremely guarded.  I had not come to terms with my past experiences and had no awareness of how those experiences had shaped me as I became an adult.  I was carrying a lot of shame and self-rejection and didn’t understand the love of God at all, though I talked about it often.  This also bled into my thoughts about romance.  I had very narrow views of who I would marry, if I married at all, and on top of that I had a very bad theology around dating, unfortunately as a direct result of the Christian subculture in the late ’90s.  I “kissed dating goodbye,” kept guys at a distance and waited for “God’s best” for me.  And if no one showed up at my doorstep, I would be content to live single for the rest of my life.  I was pharisaical and religious, judging people harshly and quickly while having very little self-awareness (quite a log in my own eye) and living in a very black and white world.

Then somewhere along the way, as life would have it, my foundation got shaken to the core and I started to question everything:  moralism, love, spirituality, faith, my beliefs/values, God, my past, my identity… it was an unnerving and scary season.  I went on a journey knowing that I may leave Christianity behind but also believing that if God existed, he could handle my questions, doubts, and all that lies in between.  In a sense, I’m still on this journey and I suspect I will be for a lifetime.  But I can say with confidence that so far, the God I’ve found and come to know can handle it all, and then some.  And I also found he is more loving, more gracious, more perfect and more just than I had ever imagined.  I found out rules are important (and sometimes even necessary) but never more than relationship.  My heart began to change, soften, open up more to the wonders and possibilities around me and in the world.

And while I was marveling in my journey, he surprised me with Steve.

(To be continued)

 

 

Black and White and Everything In Between

The other day I was talking to a 7 year old kid and out of nowhere he asked me who I’m going to vote for in the upcoming presidential election.

“I’m not quite sure yet,” I said.

In actuality, I’m mostly convinced about who to vote for but I didn’t feel like it was my place to discuss politics with the kid.

He went on to say, “I heard that what’s her name [Clinton] doesn’t like Christianity.”   I shook my head and said, “That’s not true.”  Then the kid looked pretty confused.  I guess looking back on it, I don’t really know if that’s true or not.  I don’t know her, obviously, but the information I’ve gathered doesn’t lead me to believe that to be the case.

I realize I may be committing social (media) suicide with this post but this short conversation got me thinking.

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I used to love movies and stories with a hero and a villain.  The Lord of the Rings, Superman, all kinds of war movies… they all have very distinct and obvious heroes and villains.  I still like these movies (most recently I watched Star Wars: Episode VII, only my 2nd ever Star Wars movie and really started to get the hype) but the stories don’t have as much appeal to me as they once did.  I think we love these stories because we can easily distinguish the good guys from the bad guys and most of us love to root for the good guys to win at the end.  I totally get it.  I mean, who wants the bad guys to win?  Movies that end like that leave us unsettled and unresolved.  Most of us want to believe there is still hope in the world and good people will win in the end.  Essentially, we want to live in a black and white world.

But the world is not absolutely black and white.

If you’ve lived long enough, life has a way of teaching you (or kicking you) into a very gray world.  The things we thought were right and wrong sometimes flip their heads, and the people who we believed were good or bad switch positions.  And when we start to go inward, we realize there is good and bad in all of us.  To be honest, it’s much easier to live in a black and white world and to function in that type of duality than to possibly entertain the thought that the world could be black, white, gray and all kinds of colors in between.  And just to be clear, I’m not talking about moral relativism.  Of course there is good and evil in the world.  But there are also a host of areas that cannot and will not be defined in such narrow terms.

Why do I bring this up?  Well, in this season of political mudslinging and polarization in our country, I have witnessed more demonization of persons than ever in recent memory.  He’s dumb.  She’s irresponsible.  He’s unqualified.  She can’t be trusted.  And then sooner or later (usually sooner), He’s evil.  She’s evil.

I can go on.  It has gotten out of control.  You’ve seen it, too, I’m sure.  When the topic of politics comes up, people tend to become antagonistic, visceral, hostile, combative.  Nasty words are used and sweeping accusations are made mostly based on assumptions and hearsay.  We’ve committed violence with our words and thoughts, and have made enemies of each other.  By the end of the conversation, it often turns into, You’re dumb.  You don’t know anything.  And then sometimes even, You’re a terrible person [for thinking/believing that]. You’re evil.

Actually, I confess I’ve done it, too.  I’m far from nonpartisan and I’ve demonized far too many people and situations.  Some things just seem so obvious to me it’s hard to understand why anyone would support such views, positions, candidates.  But our allegiance as Christians, as much as one would tell us otherwise, is not first to our country or a political party or a particular candidate.  Our first call is to follow Jesus.  That actually makes things much harder to discern on a political spectrum.  I personally believe there are conclusions we can draw based on the facts presented that will lead us to the best candidate for the job.  I’m not writing this, however, to convince you to pick one specific candidate (as much as I’d like to!).  The truth of the matter is, there is no hero and there is no villain here.  No one person is going to save our country and no one person is going to bring our country to ruin.  That’s the beauty of democracy.  We choose based on our conscience and conviction.  Does that mean we don’t speak out against certain views that either candidate may express that clearly go against our values/beliefs?  Absolutely not.  Let’s be passionate and vocal.  But also empathetic and generous in our interactions.  And let’s listen.  Let’s listen and go beneath the surface to understand where the other person is coming from.

Let’s try our best to love each other through this political season.


(4 years ago I wrote some lyrics during election season which I have yet to complete into a song.  But there is a song that already exists that always reminds me to stay the course.  Check it out below, and I’ve included the lyrics underneath.)

A King & A Kingdom by Derek Webb (courtesy of derekwebb.net)

Who’s your brother, who’s your sister
You just walked past him, I think you missed her
As we’re all migrating to a place where our Father lives
‘Cause we married into a family of immigrants

*So my first allegiance is not to a flag, a country or a man
My first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
It’s to a King and a Kingdom

There are two great lies that I’ve heard
The day you eat of the fruit of that tree you will not surely die
And that Jesus Christ was a white, middle class Republican
And if you wanna be saved you have to learn to be like him*

And nothing unifies like a common enemy
And we’ve got one sure as hell
He may be living in your house
He may be raising up your kids
He may be sleeping with your wife
Oh he may not look like you think

Perfection, Not Progress?

I’ve been hearing a word being thrown around a lot lately and it’s also been used towards me (in the vein of me needing to let go of it) so I’ve given this a bit of thought. The word is perfectionism.  Here are some of my unpolished thoughts:

1. You’re probably not a perfectionist and neither am I. I have not met many people who are true perfectionists. Probably can count them on 2 fingers.  I have, however, met plenty of people who say they are perfectionists. Some of these people even wear perfectionism like a badge of honor that gives them special privileges to be a certain way. I can attest to this latter group that there are no real perfectionists there. Sure, they may have some perfectionistic tendencies but most of the time I see people using that as an excuse to justify their behaviors rather than describe a true state of being. Real perfectionists do not rest and nothing is ever good enough. Real perfectionists sacrifice a ridiculous amount of their lives to try to achieve that state of perfection.  The irony is that perfectionists rarely (or never) admit that they are perfectionists because in their minds perfection cannot be achieved. Ever.

2. Perfectionism is not it. We don’t behave in perfectionistic ways because we’re perfectionists at our core. Those tendencies come from some place much deeper. For me, it comes largely from a place of fear. I’m afraid of failing. But there’s more. I try to achieve perfection because I’m afraid to fail because if I fail I may not be accepted and loved.  It’s not easy to get there but sometimes (most of the time) it serves our true selves when we’re able to peel away the layers and get to the core of it.  (Maybe we are like ogres after all?) So in that sense, yes, I do need to let go of some of those tendencies. I suspect most people who categorize themselves here have some peeling to do or have been peeling the layers already.

3. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with the pursuit of perfection.  I think it can be good when we accept the fact that we cannot be perfect and only when excellence is the end goal. Not acceptance. There is a very fine line between the two so I’m not sure I’m actually able to embody this concept.  But I think it’s a good tension to hold.  Imagine if the inventor of the wheel didn’t pursue perfection or if Mozart settled for mediocrity.  The pursuit of perfection drives humanity forward in many ways onto greater achievements.  There are moments when I have wanted things to be perfect for the benefit of my satisfaction and to serve and love others. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. But I need to ask myself if I’m trying so hard for the good or for acceptance. This is where knowing oneself really well comes in pretty handy.

4. In Genesis 1, when God created the heavens and the earth, he saw that “it is good” as opposed to “it is perfect”.  Even if God is perfect, he didn’t create perfect things.  Let’s ponder that.  It boggles my mind… even GOD didn’t make things perfect. He built imperfection into the world, and into humanity.  I know this is getting heavy and some theologians may disagree but that’s how I see it.  Perfection is not God’s plan.  Union is.  Here’s how Richard Rohr puts it:

The path of union is different than the path of perfection. Perfection gives the impression that by effort I can achieve wholeness separate from God, from anyone else, or from connection to the Whole. It appeals to our individualism and our ego. It’s amazing how much of Christian history sent us on a self-defeating course toward private perfection.  Union is instead about forgiveness, integration, patience, and compassion.  The experience of union creates a very different kind of person.

I want God and Christianity and life to be about perfection.  That makes it easier – give me a bunch of rules to follow, prayers to pray, songs to sing.  Tell me who God is and that I’m going to heaven.  Prescribe how to live a good life and I’ll go on my merry way.  But it just isn’t like that.  Maybe that works for a few years and maybe it’s even necessary in the beginning, but ultimately, God is about union.  He is about Wholeness.  And that is a much more difficult journey to take.  It’s not clear sometimes (or a lot of times), and it’s heartbreaking and sometimes even humiliating.  But I believe this is where we can truly begin to experience the good that God was referring to in Genesis 1.  And to me, THAT is worth pursuing.

The Cost of Impenetrability

Today I finally finished a book I have been nursing for more than a year called, Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull, one of the founders of Pixar Animation.  I don’t know why it takes me so long to finish books.  I’m a loyal person in life but not when it comes to books.  I’ll start a book, skim a few pages, then move onto a different book, then come back to the other one, then start a brand new one… it’s a bad habit.

Anyways, there were a lot of interesting tidbits in the book about the beginnings and development of Pixar but the part that stood out to me the most was about creating an environment that is safe (this is the word Catmull uses again and again in the book, along with “candor”) and open, so that creativity and collaboration can flourish.  Pixar’s executives prioritized this, knowing there are inherent risks in trying to sustain this type of company culture.  Oftentimes, companies strive for impenetrability as a desired trait internally and externally.  But Catmull argues there is a cost to being impenetrable: it stunts creativity by closing off ideas and nurturing a culture of fear and perfectionism.  At Pixar, creating a safe environment meant that anyone is allowed to give input at any time from anywhere in the company, no matter what position they hold.  Mistakes and failures are looked upon as opportunities to problem-solve and improve the company, rather than to finger-point and extricate.  Basically, anyone is vulnerable to honest feedback, including those at the top of the organizational chart, and this allowed employees to contribute to the growth and development of one of the most creative companies in existence today.  [As a side note, Catmull devotes an entire chapter to his close relationship with Steve Jobs and how Jobs modeled this idea of candor and open feedback – he would argue passionately about ideas he valued but when another person argued just as passionately and if what they said made sense, he changed his mind instantly. Jobs was often the first to admit the things he didn’t know.  He became increasingly open and vulnerable over the 20+ years they worked together.  I’m sure that none of the biographies and movies about Jobs really show this side of him.  How unfortunate.]

There are many lessons companies can take away from just that single idea of creating a safe culture for their long-term sustainability.  But that’s not really what drove me to open up my WordPress today. Somehow I started to connect the dots in my head about how vulnerability is also essential for a thriving relationship.  There was a time when I valued being right more than being in relationship.  I didn’t know the importance of providing a safe space to even my closest friends and I defaulted to ‘good’ advice or moral judgment.  I saw the world through a black and white lens and I dismissed gray areas as weak and insignificant.  Oh, how naive I was.  Life tends to teach us that most of everything is in the gray.  And we are left to wade in these murky waters.  But that’s where openness and vulnerability thrive.  That is where trust is built and friendships blossom.  That is where seemingly insignificant ideas become seeds of possibility.

Whenever I come out of a therapy session, even if I have worked through different issues, I always take away one main idea:  it is good for my soul to be vulnerable.  It can be terrifying but that is where the light shines through – when I allow my once impenetrable wall to come down and connect with another human being.  Sometimes it’s just one brick at a time, but it counts.  Light has a way of finding its way through that one empty space.