"But... it's not right!!!" There are a lot of "not right" things in the world these days. Syria. Ukraine. South Sudan. Malaria, hunger, infant mortality. Slavery and trafficking. And on, and on. It is a pretty overwhelming list!
But my companion was not focused on the world. What was "not right" was America.
Fair enough. Lord knows, we have plenty of "not right," too. The list of things that need to be put right in my beloved country is very long.
But Caleb was not actually focused on anything that might appear on such a list. He was focused on "the whole America." Hmmmm. That's how he refers to the jigsaw puzzle map of the U.S. we had just put together.
At the outset, he was very proud to announce that the puzzle had "the whole America." But at the end, he was beside himself.
"It's not riiiiiiiight, Grandpa!"
Much wailing ensued. And, of course, Caleb was correct. If you look closely at the photo, you can see that California has clearly suffered earthquake dislocation. Nevada and Arizona seem to have gotten out of place, too.
Caleb could see that our assembled puzzle was not perfect. And he was distraught. No amount of grandfatherly balm could sooth him. Much less, Grandpa's explanation that jigsaw puzzles assembled on carpets just cannot be made to lie flat. Caleb has a very clear vision of how things are supposed to be. He knows our puzzle is just not right. Grandpa's assurances that it is "fine," "good enough" and "the best it can possibly be on a carpet," do not touch his agony.
Caleb had another go-round on this theme later the same day. He was making a picture. A marvelous 3-year-old expression of color and energy. Mom Emily has put quite a collection of them on the wall in the basement that serves as an office. As an unbiased grandfather, I love them, of course.
But sometimes when you are working very, very hard to make sure your marker delivers its ink fully to the canv... er, page, well, disaster strikes. "Disaster," in the form of a centimeter long tear in the darkest part of the paper. Ruined. Wailing.
I thought I had the fix. A bit of tape on the back side of the paper and, voila! Good as new. See, Caleb? Silly Grandpa. Of course my sexagenarian eyes thought it was great. But Caleb knew. Not good as new. In fact, not good at all. In fact, ruined.
Tough day in the life of a 3 year old. I wish I could somehow enable Caleb to leapfrog over this pain over the less-than-perfect puzzle and less-than-perfect picture. I cannot. He has to work through it himself. But it is worth it for Caleb is working on an important life lesson. In fact, his grandfather is still working on it.
How many times have I been right there with Caleb, wailing over some project that was "ruined," only because it was not perfect? Wow. Hanging out with your grandkids is risky business! You never know when a grandchild will turn into a mirror!
What is "good enough"? How do we cope with the gap between the ideal we can imagine and the real that we live and achieve? Especially if we are followers of Jesus, and know that God desires to make us more and more like him? How do we live with the gap?
Grace, of course. Thanks be to God, we do not have to have arrived to be loved, to achieve in order to be loved. Grace always comes first. It is acceptance that calls forth achievement, not the other way round.
But that's pretty easy to forget. At least for Grandpa. So I am grateful I was present as Caleb was working on this life lesson. It was a good reminder that the difference between Caleb and his Grandpa is often much less than the 59 years between our birthdays.
Lord, thank you for your mercy and love. May your grace enable both Caleb and his Grandpa to find deep joy in "good enough," even while "perfect" awaits us in Your Future.