Perfectionism—this self-imposed, intrinsic, and ill-timed requirement stifles me more than pretty much anything else. It undergirds writing, meeting new persons (oh, how I despise small-talk), work assignments, interactions with superiors (older men in particular), contributing to groups, publishing, fathering—basically anything that involves me interacting with others—anything that yields for me either praise or rejection.
And not that I shouldn’t labor toward the perfection of what I create, whether ideas or words or laughter, but a fruitful foray into unexplored terrain requires something less than constraint. It requires consequences that teach rather than destroy. It requires forgiveness rather than exile. It requires curiosity and not fear. It requires hope and not despair. It requires freedom.
In what context might I find this freedom? Can gardens grow in deserts? What’s sand, and what’s soil?
I have learned the answer, or perhaps failed to remember the answer, many times.
It requires, at its core, 1) being loved and 2) loving others—and I’m talking the loamy stuff, the love of relationship, the love of action, the love of provision.
To the degree that I am loved and love, I have the freedom to create.
Why the first? Because gardens do not grow in deserts. I require provision—the nutrients and the safety provided only in the love of the others with whom I am connected. Gardens grow in soil.
Why the second? Because gardens feed gardens. They drop leaves and branches and fruit; they fertilize. They seed and germinate.
We all consume, of course. But if we don’t feed others, we only consume. And plants of consumption are anti-gardens, parasites, choking vines, who die either with their last victims or under the gardener’s shears. Even the loner consumes himself. His work evidences in his own eyes his grandeur or else his need to improve. He chokes on his own praise and rejection, providing for himself neither nutrition nor safety.
So we depend upon each other for freedom.
But gardens do not precede soil, do they? Of course not. A person must learn love before she can love. A person must be freed before she can be free. Love precedes love.
So if Susan is loved and she loves, she has the freedom to create, but she must first be loved. So if Katherine is loved and loves Susan, and Bill is loved and loves Katherine, and Reginald is loved and loves Bill, and so on, who loves the first person?
Of course, in my philosophy, this is God, the First-Cause Lover, who not only loves the first person but also the last. He shapes the soil and the seed. He nurtures and waters and prunes and weeds. He is the context of my fruitfulness, of my freedom to create.
So while we depend upon each other, we depend first upon the Gardener. Because of his acceptance, we can risk rejection. But more than that, because of his love, we can love.
But I’ve been missing something, though you may not have noticed. I have sought by this document freedom from perfectionism. But by that freedom, I have still sought praise. I noticed while editing everything into a sterile oblivion.
Who am I am but the choking vine, sprouting this blossom to consume your life? And what is this but a barbed sprig? I seek water for my sand and blood for my fertilizer.
I wrote On Gardening a few weeks ago. It’s funny how well it fits.
Like Mary, I catch the coat of the Gardener. “Give me what I desire.”
But he catches me and shows me my form. He grips my rebel barbs and uproots me from the sands of praise. And passing the burn pile, he plants me in loam of his love.
He is God, while I’m still just me. And while I’m still just me, he is God.
So in what context do I find freedom to create? Gardens do not grow in deserts, and gardens feed gardens. But it takes a Gardener for replanting.
This document by which I sought your praise, he edits toward my correction. What I began in death, he ends in life.