April 27, 2012 | The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner
"The Spirituality of Imperfection"Phil Humber pitched a perfect game for the Chicago White Sox six days ago. For those of you who are not baseball fans, a perfect game is when a pitcher retires 27 straight batters without allowing any hits, walks, or errors. To put this achievement in perspective, there have been 300,000--400,000 opportunities for a pitcher to pitch a perfect game over the history of Major League Baseball, and this was just the 21st time this feat as been accomplished.
The perfect game was six days ago. Last night, Humber returned to the mound for his first start since his perfect game. Needless to say there was great excitement about this moment. Humber had become an overnight sensation and people were excited to see how he would follow up his perfect game. No one of course expected another perfect game, but I'm also pretty sure that no one expected what ended up happening last night in his outing against the Boston Red Sox. Humber gave up nine earned runs in five innings pitched. If you don't know baseball, it's hard to imagine two such great extremes in a pitcher's performance within the same week, going from a perfect game to giving up nine earned runs in just over half a game.
This is what I love about baseball! It is a game that regularly reminds us that we are all imperfect. After all, a player can have a Hall of Fame career having only hit the ball thirty percent of the time. That means the player is "imperfect" seventy percent of the time. And even the best players can make errors on routine plays from time to time. Now that's something I can relate to!
There is a wonderful book called, "The Spirituality of Imperfection," by Ernest Kurtz. Here is a favorite quote from this book: "Spirituality begins with the acceptance that our fractured being, our imperfection, simply is: There is no one to 'blame' for our errors-- neither ourselves nor anyone nor anything else. Spirituality helps us first to see, and then to understand, and eventually to accept the imperfection that lies at the very core of our human be-ing."
What Phil Humber went through this week in is journey from perfection to imperfection is something to which we can all relate. One day we are loving and gracious to our partner and the next day we are irritable. One day we are patient with our children's behavior and may even find some humor in it, the next day we are annoyed with the very same behavior. One day we are in the "flow" at work--focussed and productive. The next day we are distracted and hardly get anything done. One day we practice great habits as we strengthen our physical or spiritual wellness. The next day we are lazy and don't feel like practicing our physical or spiritual disciplines at all.
Accepting that fact that imperfection is a natural part of our lives is not to bless it, or use this an excuse to not try and improve. Major league baseball players are always trying to improve their performance and consistency, and so are we. Accepting our imperfection allows us to stop being so hard on ourselves. It allows us to have a sense of grace and forgiveness about our "errors" so that we can move on to the next "game" and keep doing our best. Accepting our imperfection also helps us to realize that we are all in this together and that we need to make room for each other's imperfections as well. If you are having trouble accepting your own imperfection right now, you might want to get in touch with Phil Humber--I'm sure he could relate to your experience.
Baseball, like life, really is the perfect, imperfect game!
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