Perfection’s not my target

One of my favorite poems is by Emily Dickinson and when I share it with students they have no idea why I get so excited about its message.  On the surface it seems like a few lines about weather but as with all things of value, it’s more than that.

The sky is low — the clouds are mean.

A traveling flake of snow

across a barn or through a rut

debates if it will go–

A narrow wind complains all day

how some one treated him.

Nature, like us, is sometimes caught

without her diadem (crown).

This poem makes me feel more human.  You might  be wondering, “What’d I miss?”  Most simply, replace yourself with each of the nature references.  Ever feel low?  Have you ever been mean?  Do you scutter and skiff through your day not knowing what to do?  I’ve felt narrow and constricted and unfortunately have complained for the better part of a day, especially when I’ve felt unfairly treated.

On lovely days, nature sports her crown.  We take in lungs-full of fresh air, turn our faces to the sun and revel in the hug of a beautiful day. We also wear crowns on our lovelier days when people enjoy our company and our words and actions are fragrant to those around us.  And, just as nature has its crabby days with wind gusts, low, grey clouds,  driving rain, and is thus caught without its crown of glory, we have moments where our behavior or words show we’re susceptible to our crowns slipping too… you know, that invisible crown that Jesus so generously places on our heads.  I don’t know about you but mine slips, tilts, and some days even lurches forward.

Those crown-slipping days remind us how far from perfection we really are, but seriously, do we even want to be perfect?  These foibles we all make allow God to show us what we’re really like  – fallen.  But our God of love also uses these incidences to show us what He is really like – gracious.  If my crown never sits atop my head askew, then I’ve maybe hit what we humans might call perfection, but what do I miss out on if I am?  It’s not a target I want to hit because when I miss it, then I feel His gentle hands right my crown.  And He does it over and over and over again.

When our crown slips, in addition to God’s gentle touch, we need a friend to lovingly say, “That’s okay, mine does that, too.”  And usually we most appreciate that sweetness when we’ve had the souring experience of embarrassment.  With full hearts, we thankfully  acknowledge that Jesus redeems daily – including our flawed, crown-slipping moments, “enabl[ing] us to see the depths of our humanity as well as new vistas of divine grace.” (Eugene Peterson)

So nature might be caught without her diadem but God has placed ours firmly on our heads and it can slide around all it likes.  Thanks to His promises and dear friends here on Earth, we have His assurance that it’ll never hit the floor.


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