Monday, November 22, 2010

The hope of perfection

I heard a great story* on my recent field visit to France. As a recovering perfectionist, I was thankful to hear it.
J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were friends and fellow authors. They decided to write the kind of books that they themselves would like to read and went to it. Lewis began turning out novels at great speed, but Tolkien labored over his The Lord of the Rings, writing and rewriting it without being able to finish it.
Tolkien struggled enormously with jealousy toward Lewis at times. But he couldn't finish his masterpiece.
Then he had a dream that he was a muralist who had be hired by a town to paint a beautiful tree. Unfortunately, although he could see a magnificent tree in his head, all he could paint was a leaf. So the townspeople came and complained that he wasn't delivering what they were paying him for.
He then dreamed that he rode a train to heaven (hey, dreams are like that), and as he was watching the scenery go by, he saw his tree, just standing there. It was beautiful and exactly like he pictured it.
For Tolkien, this represented God's kind reminder that all that was needed was his best--eternity alone could contain the perfect version. He was able to finish his manuscript.
I do this a lot without realizing it. I think it's one reason I'm paralyzed by decisions--I want to understand and choose perfectly. But I can't. So God takes my bumbling ways and weaves them into something beautiful, the fullness of which I'll only grasp on the other side.

*I don't know if I got the story right--It's fourth-hand at least. But I like this version, and I couldn't find much on the interwebs about it, just this quote from one of Tolkien's letters: "There is a place called 'heaven', where the good here unfinished is completed; and where the stories unwritten, and the hopes unfufilled, are continued. We may laugh together yet..."

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