I love my mother. In part, because she's such a good sport when I include embarrassing, funny, sometimes awkward family stories in my sermons and blog. So with permission given from a nearly saintly mother with a life turned public, here is a recent story that has some relevance for the season...
Over Thanksgiving, my parents came to visit me in my new home in Charlotte, NC. Somehow, I mentioned that I like antique furniture a whole lot because of the character, imperfections, and stories it carries. My parents nod their head in agreement and my mom points to a dresser in an antique store window we were perusing.
"Exactly," she says pointing to a missing handle on the dresser. "Some people see this as a flaw, but really you can replace all the handles. Mix and match. It doesn't have to be perfect. In fact, I was just reading an article about how to bring the Japanese art of imperfection into your life-- the art of wasabi," my mother says smiling brightly.
I scrunched up my nose and furrowed my eyebrows. Wasabi? I mean I guess that little pea colored ball of spice added to my sushi plate isn't perfect, but an art of imperfection? I had images of wasabi sculptures in art-deco museums in Tokyo alongside wall mountings of ginger. They would serve sake in these museums and admire the wasabi sculptures while sushi bars awaited at the museum's exit.
"Really, wasabi?" I ask.
My mother looked a mixture of amused and embarrassed. "Oh, no! Not wasabi, I mean, wabi-sabi."
When I stopped laughing, I learned a bit about wabi-sabi. It's the practice of looking at imperfection from chips to cracks, as the universe's symbol of wisdom. Wabi-sabi reminds us that perfection is not possible, nor is perfection worth seeking. In this season of decking the halls, it's easy to get lost in that picture perfect Christmas. You know the image. It includes family gathered, fireplace lit, tree adorned, table set and presents waiting. I don't know anyone with a perfect Christmas. Someone is late, something burns, a gift forgotten, travel delayed with snow and ice and then there are the Christmas tree lights that won't work because a single bulb is out. You can lose days trying to find that bulb!
I know I've said this before and even blogged it before but it bares repeating (if not just for myself).
Yet, in truth the real beauty of Christmas is often in all the imperfect details: a baby born in a barn, no room at the inn, unprepared parents, and a host of unexpected guests. The Christmas story is far from a perfect story, but rather a reminder of all the hope that can be had when we let go of the picture as we would have it, and embrace the imperfections as part of the beauty in this world. Hope lies in that makeshift manger not a perfectly created cradle. The picture of Christmas is simply made holy in the surrender to all that is imperfect.
So I am wishing you all a very wasabi Christmas...hmmm.....