Sunday, July 28, 2013

Perfect things aren't always easy to swallow


Several weeks ago, we had a lovely visit to Victoria. On one outing, I asked my husband to follow a sign that promised perfectly balanced spring water straight from the depths of the earth. He doesn't always go along with spantaneous whims, but this time he did. We drove for miles down a country track full of virgin Australian bush and fearless animal life. Just when we were thinking of turning back, we found ourselves in a deserted car park with a hand pump. We figured that was what we'd come to see.

The rusty metal plaque on the pump's base confirmed how ultra-healthy the water is. It contains the perfect balance of minerals for the ideal health tonic. I wanted to get straight into it, having images of people from the Regency era flocking to Bath  and other spa towns for similar restorative water.

We had to prime the pump several times. Just when we were beginning to think nothing would happen, a trickle appeared, and soon a torrent gushed forth. We filled a bottle which I offered to the kids first. I watched Emma's and Blake's faces change as they took their sips. Something about the way they said, "Mum, it's really nice water," seemed a bit fishy. As I brought the bottle up to my lips, they burst out laughing.

The stink alerted me first. It was like sulphur, rotten eggs or what I'd imagine smoke from a dragon's nostrils to smell like. The flavour was bitter and very metallic. I couldn't take a proper sip but just wet my lips. I hope not to offend anyone here, but our little boy liked this analogy - it was like a robot passing wind.

Even knowing how healthy that water is supposed to be, we couldn't force ourselves to drink much. Our taste buds rebelled. Emma thought she'd like to take a bottle home to her best friend, for a joke, but the sediments in the bottle turned crazy shades of colour and I began to dread the whiffs when we opened the lid. We tipped it out back at the caravan park, thinking that if we aren't allowed to take fruit back into South Australia, I wouldn't want to take that either.

It's been on my mind. A beverage that's supposedly so perfect, it's unpalatable. I've heard of similar things in nature before. The durian fruit is said to be wonderfully healthy, but its stench wafts out the sweat pores of those brave enough to eat any. I wondered if this observation is the same with perfect people? Are they hard to swallow?

That seemed to be a silly thought. Surely the more perfect people are, the more they must be well-loved by everyone they come into contact with. Look at Jesus, who many of us declare is the only truly perfect person who ever lived. Straight away, I saw not everyone in his time thought he was perfect. He offended some and confused others. Some of the words people probably used to describe him were abrasive, elusive, confrontational, deluded, a stirrer. Many left in droves, shaking their heads and muttering that his teachings were too hard to swallow. He ended up getting himself crucified by people who reacted to him as we did to that water. If he returned to earth, he'd probably get the same reaction from many people, because humanity doesn't change.

Then I thought about other renowned people we may think as close to perfect as possible. How about Mother Teresa? She was a legend. Yet, photos reveal the toll her lifestyle took on her in her stooped shoulders and weather-beaten, wrinkled face. It seemed that majoring on one area of her life detracted from another area which many celebrities think is extremely important for perfection. She didn't have the time, means or inclination to go to beauty parlors or cosmetic surgeons. And maybe many who do these things, do so at the expense of other areas of their lives. Perhaps the fictional perfection of Barbie, whose cartoon movies show her to be super beautiful, generous and good in one package, is less accurate. In reality, personal goodness (and everyone is different) may not always be what we think easy to swallow.

So is being well-loved by everyone we come across a reliable gauge that we are closer to 'good' than 'bad'? I used to think so but now I think differently. So many heroes through history had moments of being severely criticised for their choices and habits, which many now applaud. When we're making waves, or at least a few ripples, and some people are mumbling about us, this is not necessarily a sign that we're getting off track, but maybe a clue that we are right where we are meant to be, doing what we are meant to be doing.

For authors like me, if our books get some low reviews, that doesn't mean that the stories aren't just how they are meant to be. Maybe when a few others find us hard to swallow, it may show that we are on the right track with our callings. Whatever it is that you do, consider that when a few people react unfavourably to you, it doesn't mean that you are not in the perfect place, doing the perfect thing for you.

8 comments:

  1. I was a little worried that you actually drank that water! My father-in-law had well water that had a high sulfur content. Based on that I would say your son's description was right on the mark.

    And so is your description of perfection. It is impossible to have that Mary Poppins "perfectly perfect in every way." Better to strive for perfection in ways that matter.

    Peace and Laughter!

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  2. Great blog Paula. It's so easy to judge as the world does, but if we're doing what God wants, we're bound to get some flak from time to time. Loved your analogy with writing. People give bad reviews for all sorts of reasons. I've seen a number of reviews where someone rated a Christian book 1 or 2 just because they didn't like the Christian theme. But you're so right that that doesn't mean it wasn't the right message. And maybe some of those reviewers will keep thinking about the message long after their bad review.

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  3. Excellent and thought-provoking post.

    On books and book reviews ... I read a lot, and many of the books I read are best described as forgettable. A lot of them get four star ratings on Amazon, because while they were good, they didn't have that 'zing' that made them memorable.

    But the other books I remember are the ones I really didn't like. And those readers who give you one or two stars are probably the ones who most need to hear God's message. These are the readers for whom you are fulfilling the Great Commission.

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  4. I agree with all your comments, ladies.
    Nola, I came across a book like that not ago, and it made me sad to see that people were rating it based on this rather than storyline and actual writing.
    Iola, I've always remembered what you said about one or two star reviews making our higher ones more legitimate.
    Cristina, that water really did smell terribly bad. Sorry about your father-in-law's unusable well.

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  5. Oh, no, the well wasn't unusable, they also talked about how healthful the water was. Sulfur is supposed to have several health benefits. Google it and you'll see. Of course, any time they used the hot water the house smelled of rotten eggs. :o)

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  6. Great post Paula. I laughed at the water. One things for sure,I don't think it would be perfect for me. I recall my experiance of Durian - they say it smells like hell and tastes like heaven. On a trip to Indonesia I got to taste some and quite enjoyed it - a bit like a creamy, slightly onion flavoured custard but within seconds of taking mouthful I had a full on asthma attack. I've discovered that Sulfur does that to me. Even on our last trip we stayed at a Hotel next to some hot springs - and the Hotel piped the hot water in the rooms. I began to wheeze just from the whiff after my daughter took a shower. But your point is well taken - even when something is what we need, we don't necessarily imbibe it gladly.I guess the thing is to make sure we offend others for the right reasons - but also to remember that we don't have to be perfect to please God who loves us despite our failures.

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  7. Thanks Cristina and Jenny,
    Now I'm wondering if the water we hear about in books would've been like that water. I'd been to Bath, but a very long time ago and don't remember much about the water.
    But we did visit Maree in New South Wales, Australia, much closer to home, and I do remember that sulfur smell from their springs, now that you mention it. Didn't stop us hopping in, but I wouldn't have taken a drink of any.
    I'd be quite curious to taste a durian. How interesting, that its smell doesn't match its taste.

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