By Sara Pippus
An empty canvas sits in my closet. It’s wrapped in clear plastic, as pristine as the day I bought it several months ago. The canvas is blank and white. It is standing next to several others- let’s not talk about how many. I have brushes, oils and acrylics, a travel easel, and some great antique jars that will hold the water for washing up. A ladder with years of patina is stashed in the shed in my yard that reminds me, each time I open the door, of my good intentions for some day. The plan is to turn it into an easel to use at home. All of this because I want to paint. To create.
My life is like that. I am a dreamer that constantly feels like my dreams far exceed anything I actually do. Inventions swirl around my brain. Most often, I don’t take myself very seriously or I get told to get my head out of the clouds. Lately, I’ve been thinking about all my best efforts and wondering if I am my own worst enemy. I came across a song recently by Sarah Slean called Perfect Sky that opened my eyes. Of course, for dramatic effect, its best to look her up on YouTube so you can get the full sense of the song.
The lines go like this:
The injured pilot performs inspection
She turns the dials and waits for perfection
the wind is howling all around her
she wants a moment she will never find
don’t wait for the perfect sky
The injured dancer can’t find the rhythm
something’s broken but it’s within him
the dance is real and it never falters
you cannot see it because you’ve closed your eyes
don’t wait, don’t wait, fly. don’t wait for the perfect sky
the time is never right
aim for the higher height
you may not reach it
but you might you might
so take that second guess
and turn it into yes
be the light
it’s never a perfect sky
the writer weeps for her faded glory
she is burdened by her story
so write a new one, let it begin with the injured warrior walking into fire
don’t wait, don’t wait. Fly.
Don’t wait for the perfect sky.
This song speaks to the heart of it. Waiting on those just right conditions to start a project or attempt something new was keeping me from experiencing life. More to the point, it is keeping me from using the gifts I have been given. The way we live is geared to strive for perfection and we hold it in high regard above everything else. I have followed that crazy path at times just so people around me would be impressed or think I was good enough. But here I am again on the edge of something new and perfection is an anchor holding me back. It is an anchor sunk so deep in the muddiness of fear, it keeps me from beginning.
As I was thinking about this, I followed the long trail of fear through my past. I have never been afraid to try new things but I have been desperately afraid of the new things which mean something to me. For instance, after I graduated from grade 12 I stayed away from getting a university degree because I was certain I would fail. And that would prove once and for all that I was less or not enough for all my book-smart buddies. I find lots of excuses, even now, not to try it — from the money it would take to my brain is being too old and too tired. Perfection is a great shield I can hide behind, giving me a false sense of security.
Over the years I’ve made excuses to not do things I wanted to try so badly. Cliff jumping – why yes I would love to – but I don’t feel so well so I’ll just watch. What if I make an idiot of myself in front of people? But every now and then I would get a burst of brave, like when I turned 40. I called it ‘having a case of the Forteez’ like it was a cold that could be caught. I kayaked and white-water rafted. I climbed to the top of rocks at Rochee Percee and swung from ropes into deep lakes. I started a list that year of all of the things I had tried all without worrying about whether I could or not, who was watching, or how goofy I looked. I still carry that list around as a reminder.
Now I know what I do for fun is not what is at stake here; the point runs a lot deeper. It reminds me of a story Jesus told in the Scriptures about a servant who was given a talent by his Master. The Master is passing out talents to each of them according to their ability before he goes away on a long journey. The Master returns to find several of his servants have used what they were given wisely. But one servant, citing fear of failure and disappointing the Master, has gained nothing while He was away (Likely a scared perfectionist who didn’t want to get it wrong). The servant’s gift is taken and he is thrown into utter darkness. It’s not a story about good investments or bank accounts but rather a story about a good Master who entrusts his servants with gifts to be used. Our Master has done just that. This story inspires me to be incredibly mindful of what I have been given as a gift. Even in the trivial things, I need to really ask myself if I am using my gifts well. Am I so worried about doing things perfectly that I don’t even try? Will my Master have reason to say…
‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master’s happiness!’ (Matthew 25:23)