Monday, January 20, 2014

Practicing Perfection

Tell any performer that their performance was "perfect" and they'll tell you it wasn't. I was once told that a performance I gave was flawless. I was really taken aback. It may have seemed that way to that person, but I knew that it was anything but. Among other things, I said snored instead of sneered and I missed an entire line. But I carried it off so that no one noticed those things. It appeared that my performance was flawless, but I knew it wasn't. I didn't want that title, because what if I messed up the next time? Where do you go from flawless and perfect?

We are told that "practice makes perfect," but I disagree. What is perfect, anyway? Perfect, as an adjective, is described as "having all the required or desirable elements, qualities or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be; complete." Interestingly, perfect in the verb form is defined as "to make completely free from faults or defects, or as close to such a condition as possible." Ah, this is why I don't think practice can make perfect. Who of us can claim that anything we do is completely free of faults or defects, when we are incapable of becoming that ourselves? Yes, we can come "as close to such a condition as possible," but I don't think any of us can ever say that anything we have ever done was perfect. I say "practice makes better," but not perfect.


When we strive for perfection, we tend to set a standard for ourselves that may be impossible to achieve. When we cannot meet that standard, we feel that we have failed, and strive harder for that perfection. Worse, we often have an abstract idea of what perfection should look like. For instance, if I desire to be "the perfect wife"  (a disdain for domestic duties has already disqualified me for that), I will continually fail, because there is no clear definition of what that looks like. I'm setting myself up for failure. I can try to play a musical piece to perfection; that is more concrete, but because I've set myself up with abstract perfection too many times, and failed miserably, I will most likely not recognize if I actually have played the piece perfectly. I am too busy pointing out all my own flaws. Perfectionists don't set goals, they set standards...impossible ones. For some bizarre reason, perfectionists seem to strive for perfection, but expect failure. 

The problem is that we, as humans, are flawed. Not one of us is perfect, so we will never be able to attain perfection. Yet  we continue to strive for it. There is only one Perfect One-Jesus Christ. 

The Greek definition for "perfect" means complete. Biblical perfection is a trait that is desirable in that we strive to become like God--He is perfection; we are imperfection. We are incomplete without Him. We are only complete when we give up our beliefs, our standards, our rules, submit to the Father, and allow Him to mold us into perfect completion. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matt 5:48). 


Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.Then come, follow me." (Matt 19:21).
I don't think Jesus was suggesting that every one of us needs to do that to be perfect; the man Jesus was addressing was very rich, and "went away sad," when he heard this. He didn't want to give up his wealth; he wanted another way into the kingdom. What are you holding on to that is keeping you from enjoying the kingdom of heaven? Are you constantly performing in order to seek approval? Constantly setting impossible goals in order to be the perfect (fill in the blank)? If so, have you noticed that your performance is never good enough, and that you never receive enough approval? Are your standards too abstract? You may be a perfectionist!


I am a recovering perfectionist. I still slip into those patterns and habits. But I usually recognize them, and bring them to Jesus, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy (Heb 10:14). 

When I stop thinking so much about myself, and focus on the heart of Jesus, when I realize that He loves me unconditionally---that I don't need to perform in order to earn his approval, when I realize that all I need to do is bring my broken and imperfect self to the throne, when I hand him my heart and say, "I am imperfect. Make me perfect, Lord, as You are perfect," I will be complete. Then, and only then, will I be complete...perfect. 

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day
Just As I Am (Brian Doerksen)






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