My husband is a civil engineer. He designs bridges. When he isn't designing something he and other smart people are busy checking plans to find mistakes, his work and others. This involves long calculations and formulas and things which make my eyes glaze over.
Engineers are perfectionists because they need to be. No doubt this is common in many professions, where anything less than perfection equals fail.
He will tell you that some engineers seem to find satisfaction, even delight in finding faults in another's work.
They're like professional fault-finders.
And I have to tell you that he doesn't live like this, fault finding, but it can be difficult when he comes home to turn off the critical voices, to not feel like he's living under the narrow-eyed microscope of perfectionism.
And it is a good thing there are fault-finders to find the flaws and errors- it is the reason we don't need to carry parachutes crossing bridges.
But it is no way to live.
In this way I think there is a bit of a fault-finder in everyone.
I think all of us can live it- an analytical eye; partially on the look-out for flaws and imperfections, a way to sum-up a person in our own calculating, silent way.
Maybe it is a defense mechanism, maybe we are born squinting.
It starts early. Even my kindergartener today came home and muttered, she got what she deserves. Where did she learn that?
And I do it to myself.
Just the other day I stopped in the middle of the day and gasped, remembering a time and something I said and how foolish it was, such a fool, I said it out loud, and I could bury myself in judgment.
I do not work in an office where performance is king. I am a writer, and once a month I meet with other writers to talk about the story we each are writing. The group helps make my writing better and in the process they remind me how to live.
Here is the contrast:
We aren't looking for flaws, we are looking for potential, and creative people are able to see potential in anything.
I think we are able to see potential because our work is so very much in process. We know that we have read only a small portion, maybe a chapter, of a greater work. And we understand that the unanswered questions we have, the gaps, aren't going to all be answered in those few pages. The answer likely is buried somewhere in the pages we haven't seen.
You know, like people. Like life. We get this one tiny glimpse into a person's life. Maybe a chapter. Usually more like a paragraph. And from those few clues we think we have a person figured out.
When we are critiquing a portion of a story there is an understanding that it will be flawed because it is unfinished, and this is why we are here, this is why the author has bravely presented her work to critique, because she needs advice and wants to hear our thoughts on her piece. We understand that fear and are gentle with it because it is so familiar.
Oh how much healthier, more whole, people might be if we could find a place safe to confess our sins to each other and pray for each other and ask for advice, help. We are all so very much in process.
We have earnest dialogues about the necessary laws of fantasy worlds. We debate the reasoning of fictional characters. We offer possible solutions to made-up problems. We invent characters with magical powers. And I leave with my sanity restored.
Because this is the way I want to live, this upside down way: In possibility.
It is our new Reality.
There is a God of metrics and calculations, but it is the former way, the curse, death. In it everybody loses.
In Christ there is a new way, a living way, the way of Grace-
where our sin has been removed as far as the east is from the west and remembered no more,
where even a bruised reed Grace will not break, or a smoldering wick snuff out,
where Love believes all things, hopes all things, covers a multitude of faults
We need engineers in the world. We need precision, logic, reason.
But somehow we must separate this world from our true home, where the last are first, and sinners are called saints, a world of Yes where the story is called Redemption. Where anything anything is possible.