I’ve been thinking about how often I use the word “perfect.” When I experience a day where everything goes just exactly right, I describe it as a “perfect” day. If I’m throwing a dinner party (remember when we used to do that?) every last detail has to be “perfect.” If I’m writing a blog post or a spiritual reflection, I have to find the “perfect” way to get my message across. In each of these examples, I’m placing incredibly high expectations on whatever I’m doing or experiencing. My standards are impossibly high, and if anything goes wrong, it tarnishes the entire thing.
I wonder if this type of thinking is more harmful than good. The human condition is that we are not perfect. In fact, we were never meant to achieve perfection. It’s our flaws and our brokenness that make us children of God.
God loves us…
in spite of…
More than that, our brokenness is actually critical to a deepening relationship with God. We need our cracks and broken places. As it’s so beautifully stated by playwright Heather McDonald:
“It is said that grace enters the soul through a wound.”
What if we stopped looking at our cracks and imperfections as barriers to God, but instead saw them as openings through which God’s love and grace might enter our souls? In other words, just because we’re not totally perfect, it doesn’t mean we’re totally worthless. This “all or nothing” thinking gets us nowhere and leaves us stuck. If I can’t achieve perfection, then why not just give up? Why bother?
I work at a university, and a professor once told me a story of a bright and talented student who was three weeks late turning in a paper. When he asked her to explain the delay, she revealed a deep fear that the paper wasn’t perfect. She was frozen. She couldn’t bring herself to turn in her paper knowing it had flaws.
Although we routinely use this gauge of perfection to judge ourselves and others, that’s not how God sees us! God wants us to know that this “all or nothing” thinking is not constructive. It doesn’t move us toward wholeness. It doesn’t aid our spiritual growth. We do not need to be perfect. In the words of St. Augustine:
“This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections.”
God’s love has never been dependent on our being perfect. When Jesus lived on earth, he spent his time with the poor, the meek, the sick, and the sinful. None of these could claim to be perfect. Yet Jesus loved them. Just as Jesus loves us. Not because we’re perfect…but because we belong to God. We only need to look at the saints to see the truth in this. They were not perfect either, in fact some of them were deeply flawed. But what sets them apart is that they gave their flaws over to God. They came to God with open wounds…willing to let God’s grace enter.
Our journey of faith is not one that has a finish line. It’s not something we “win” or come in first place. We don’t need to arrive at this mythical place of perfection…in fact we cannot. We remain in the middle of the road or the “somewhere along the way” point.
- What does this “middle of the road” look like to you?
- Picture meeting Jesus “somewhere along the way.” What might Jesus be saying to you as you continue on this journey together?
During this Lenten season, I pray that you will know and believe that God loves and accepts you exactly as you are! It doesn’t mean God doesn’t want you to strive towards “better.” But you can do this knowing you’ll never reach “best.” And that’s “perfectly” ok!