Imperfect Perfection

During church this morning, a reading from 2 Corinthians struck a cord, and a friend sitting beside me shared a Mahatma Gandhi quote that fit the moment:  “Imperfect ourselves, we must be tender towards others.” Thanks F.H.

Geesh, I know most of my weaknesses, though there are more, I’m sure. Thankfully, the older I get, the less I care about being perfect.

In the Shaker tradition, “Only God is perfect.” For this reason, they always include an intentional flaw as they sew. Works for me.

And nature? We have the perfect flower. I have my MMNP class to thank for learning about this. Each July, when the day lilies bloom, it all comes back to me.


The anatomy of this perfect flower begins with three sepals, which are modified leaves that protect the flower as it opens up. In this case they are the lower three “petals.”

day lily taking advantage

Next come three petals. They are only a tad bit bigger than the sepals and have ruffled rims. Petals are modified leaves that protect the reproductive parts. And they provide the runway lights to attract pollinators.

daylily 2

What really defines a “perfect” flower, however, is the presence of male and female parts. On the day lily, six stamen house the male reproductive parts, including the anthers that produce pollen.

day lily

Finally, there is one pistil or female reproductive part. At the tip, the three-parted stigma receives the pollen. Looks like she’ll have a visitor soon.


sketch 2

I was going to apologize for my sketches, but that’s not necessary. They are what they are.

St. Johnswort

Common St. John’s Wort is another example of perfection–with a crazy number of stamens.


X marks the spot. A member of the Evening Primrose family, sundrops are perfect flowers that feature a four-parted stigma. See an X and you’ll know the family.

Perfection continues with the Mallow family. White stamens surround the bright pink ladies in waiting.

All perfect. All different. Maybe that’s the point. Just because these flowers fit the botanical definition of “perfect,” it doesn’t mean they don’t have imperfections. And that’s OK. Me too. Imperfect perfection. The way to be. And to recognize the same in others.

5 thoughts on “Imperfect Perfection

  1. Love it, Leigh! I find that I sometimes have a hard time being ‘tender towards others!’

    And all this time, I thought that those were all petals on the day lily….

    As a quilt maker, I learned long ago not to fret about a minor imperfection in a quilt… the Amish also say that only God is perfect. This is sometimes reassuring to another who obsesses about a mistake…….it’s most always a mistake that no one would see if it weren’t pointed out.

    Faith sent from my Ipad


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