Many (many) years ago, I graduated from college, Magna Cum Laude. It was something I really should have been very proud of. I should have been happy that I attended college, graduated with honors, graduated at all. As one of only a few people in my family who had gone to college at that time, I should have given myself some credit. Instead, I celebrated with a smile on my face and bitterness in my heart.
You see, I am ashamed to say that I felt robbed. My GPA was 3.49. A 3.5 would have earned me Summa Cum Laude, and I was really angry with the school for not bumping me up to, what I felt, was a much deserved ranking. I worked really hard to get those grades. I went to school full-time for four years holding a double major in very demanding studies (history and political science) with an even more demanding concentration (American military experience). I worked full-time for the last two years I was in school, taking every shift I could, waitressing at busy restaurants all day or late into the night, weekdays and weekends. I wrote four major thesis papers, for crying out loud!
I was really angry with the school, but I was more angry with myself. Why hadn’t I pushed just a little harder? Why had I taken the research paper-only option (no exams – just a 50 page paper) for the toughest professor? Why hadn’t I skipped a few social gatherings and stayed home to study instead?
These questions plagued me for days, until…
The weekend after I graduated, I attended Mass with my family as we did (and do) every weekend. When Mass was over, the wonderful priest who would celebrate my marriage a year later, Father Paul Dudziak, gave me a hug and congratulated me on my graduation. I thanked him but said that I was really disappointed in myself because I had missed Summa Cum Laude by one-hundredth of a decimal. Father shook his head and asked me to follow him. We walked back through the church and onto the altar. Father pointed to the rug and asked me what I thought of it.
I’m sure you can imagine that I was perplexed, even a little irritated. He hadn’t said a word to me about my GPA. He hadn’t agreed that I should have studied harder nor did he tell me that I had done a good job even if it wasn’t the honors I wanted. Instead, he asked me what I thought of the oriental rug. I was at a loss for words. I may have mumbled something to the likes of, “It looks nice,” or “It’s really pretty.” I really don’t remember. What I do remember is what he said next.
Father Paul told me that the rug had been handmade by a group of monks. He said that it was long, arduous labor and took many years to produce just one rug. He said the monks worked extremely hard to get every detail right except in one corner. He walked to the corner and pointed to a small place where the pattern was not quite right.
“Do you see that?” he asked.
I nodded, still not understanding.
“That is where the monks purposely made a mistake.” He stopped talking and looked at me, waiting for me to meet his eyes. When I raised my gaze to meet his, he asked. “Why do you think they did that?”
I thought about it then shook my head. Why had they done that? Why purposely create a mistake?
With a sympathetic smile, Father quietly said the words I have never forgotten. “Only God is perfect.”
With blush-stained cheeks and tears threatening to fall, I nodded and thanked Father, then quietly left the church. My parents asked me what he said, but I couldn’t answer. Later that day, I shared the story with my mother. I admit that there have been many more times in my life when she has had to remind of this.
Only God is perfect.
That’s so easy to forget in this world of high demand where all women are encouraged to look like models; men are supposed to be made in the mold of a Greek God with the wit and ingenuity of James Bond; and children are supposed to achieve straight As while being the star player in at least three sports, and aiming for Ivy League educations. It’s so hard to just be enough.Why do we have to be more than that?
Today is Ash Wednesday. For the next forty days, we are to fast, pray, and give of ourselves (through money, time, effort, or attention) to those in need. I’d like to propose that we also take the next forty days to show appreciation to those in our lives who are enough. Let’s be less demanding, less critical, and less judgmental. Let’s let others know that they don’t have to be perfect to be loved and accepted. Let’s concentrate more on how we treat others and less on giving up ice cream or cleaning out closets. Let’s really work this Lent to change the way we view perfection.
There is but one among us who is perfect, who loves perfectly. At the end of these forty days, as we gaze upon the image of perfect love, let us be a little kinder to ourselves and each other. We don’t have to be perfect.
Only God is perfect.
Come see Amy on one of these dates:
March 9, 2022 – Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, Wayne, PA 7:00PM, Online – Lenten Reflection
April 9, 2022 – First Landing Wine and Arts Festival, St. Clement’s Island Museum, Clements, MD
June 4, 2022 – Christ Church 350th Anniversary Fair, Broomes Island, MD
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Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. The Good Wine, the sequel to Whispering Vines was released in June of 2021. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s chapter book is The Greatest Gift, and her most recent suspense novel is Summer’s Squall.
Amy’s second book in the Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, was awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest, Best Romance in the American Book Awards, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction. Amy’s 2019 work, The Devil’s Fortune, a finalist in the Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Awards and winner of an Illumination Award, is based, in part, on Amy’s family history. The third book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Hope, was released in August of 2019. Amy’s book, Desert Fire, Mountain Rain begins her new Buffalo Springs series. Book two, Under the Summer Moon, was released in December of 2021.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018), The Devil’s Fortune (2019), Island of Hope (2019), A Devotional Alphabet (2019), Desert Fire, Mountain Rain(2020), The Good Wine (2021), Under the Summer Moon (2021).