Wabi Sabi: Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life
"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul."
It's fun to say. But what is it?
The true definition of the term remains elusive—kind of like love. You can sense it, but words can't explain it. In Beth Kempton's book, Wabi Sabi: Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life, she dives headfirst into exploring the concept that has captivated her attention for decades.
She explains, "Wabi sabi is a state of the heart. It is a deep in-breath, and a slow exhale. It is felt in a moment of real appreciation- a perfect moment in an imperfect world. We can nurture it with our willingness to notice details and cultivate delight. And we experience it when we are living the most authentic, most inspired versions of our lives." Pg 5
"Wabi" is about finding beauty in the simple and living spiritually rich lives peacefully detached from the material world. It finds beauty in the harsh realities of life. It accepts reality on its own terms. It is humble, simple, and grateful.
"Sabi" is more concerned with how time passes and finding the beauty in aging. It reminds us of our connection with the past, our mortality, and our natural life cycle.
We all experience wabi sabi differently, just as we all experience life differently. There is no way to capture it or explain it in words. It is felt. It is experienced with the heart, not with the head.
I routinely struggle with this. I'm intellectually stimulated and frequently struggle with taking my thoughts captive. Meditation is a massive challenge for me. Well, meditating on the right things is. Worry is a form of meditation: it is just worshipping the problem and not the creator who can fix it. So what I should really should say is that I routinely struggle with meditating on the right things. Meditating on God and His Word that is stored up in my heart. Surrendering to what the Holy Spirit desires to show me in the present. Discovering the joy that is in the now. Focusing on the small moments with the people I love.
Wabi sabi is accepting life in all its imperfections.
In my book, We're All Doing Our Best I wrote a chapter called "Perfectionism: The Silent Killer."
In this season of life, I am once again being strangled to death by this sneaky devil.
I constantly feel like a failure because there aren't enough hours in the day to accomplish all of the things I need to. I'm in a life season of trying to juggle too many things, and I have an impending sense of doom that my world is about to crash down on my head. Chicken Little is my spirit animal. I feel like a disappointment to everyone around me, especially myself.
I just can't do it all, and I tend to shame myself for it.
Being a single mom is hard. The boy's dad is still an active addict, dealing with his own struggles, so I'm the only parent on deck 100% of the time. I put so much pressure on myself because it feels like all the burdens of parenting fall single-handedly on my shoulders: financial, emotional, and spiritual. Thank goodness for Lisa (the boy's now ex-stepmom), who has greatly supported the boys and me. She has genuinely loved them like they are her own kids and taught me much about parenting. Thank goodness for the boy's grandparents (both my parents and my ex-husband's parents). Raising kids takes a village, and I am blessed to have a fantastic support system of friends and loved ones to lean on when times are tough. This is my wabi sabi. I wouldn't choose to be a single mom, but despite the circumstances, I see the blessings the Lord has graciously given me.
I might be struggling with my job right now, but at least I have a job. I might struggle with health problems, but they could be much worse. I might not accomplish half of the things I set out to do today, but at least I got out of bed and gave it my best. My life might not be perfect, but at least I am sober and have been given a second chance at life. Each breath is a gift.
Psalm 23 was in the boys' Bible devotional yesterday evening. It is one of my favorite chapters in the entire Bible. On my first day of Hebrew class, my instructors gave me a framed copy of it in Hebrew. I keep it on the wall in my bedroom so I can look at it before I go to sleep at night. This psalm is often used at funerals because it reminds us that life isn't always a mountain top season. Sometimes we are in the valley. Other times we find ourselves in the shadows or the dark night of the soul. There is beauty in all of the places if we pause to look for it.
Don't let your feelings lie to you and tell you there are no treasures around you.
Even in the most anguishing moments of life, peace can always be found if we still our minds and quiet our hearts. We can't hold on to these fleeting moments of happiness forever, but we can treasure them in our hearts and let the joy of hope carry us in the present.
The wabi sabi moments are about laying down wherever your pasture is at the moment. It's where we take our thoughts captive, surrender our lives to Christ, and live fully in His peace. This isn't to say that our life circumstances are peaceful, but rather that we find joy in Him despite our circumstances. We surrender our hearts to Him, and He restores our souls. The storm may rage, but the living water in our hearts settles our nerves. These moments may be fleeting in a chaotic and disturbing world, but with a bit of practice and perseverance, we can get better at learning to recognize these moments. We can learn to recognize wabi sabi.
We find the perfect in the imperfect because Jesus never expected us to be perfect any rate.
I thank my fellow Ragamuffin Angela for recommending such a beautiful book. You have been on my heart all week Sister. Know that I am praying for you and admire your strength, vulnerability, and courage.
Wherever you are as you read this, rest knowing that life may not look like what you want it to, but there is beauty in the imperfection.
You are seen. You are cherished. You are loved.
Imperfections and all.