Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Being Perfect: Is It Possible?

Isn’t this what we see and hear everyday? In health and fashion magazines, we see the models have perfect bodies, looking fit and trim, wearing the latest clothes and having perfect smiles on them. In school, students feel pushed to get a perfect grade-point average. The pressure to get good grades can overshadow the possibility of formulating new thoughts and ideas. Once again, the result is more important than the process. We live in a culture that is obsessed with perfection, where failure is not an option. Yet, experience tells us that mistakes are part of lives.

There have been times when I’ve said to myself, If I make a mistake, God (or my parents or my teachers or my boyfriend or my best friend) won’t love me. I think I may have allowed myself to think I have to ‘earn’ love by succeeding, by winning, by being the best, rather than simply being myself and doing as well as I can. True, I don’t mean it, but often I place conditions on the relationships I’m in with others: As long as you do this, I’ll do that.

Jesus tells us that God loves us not so much because of who we are or what we do but because of who God is. God loves us unconditionally. God loves because God loves. It's as simple as that. This love will always be there, in our moments of success, but also in our moments of failure. Naturally God wants us "to do the right thing" but God’s love for us will remain even when we don’t measure up.

If God could not love flawed, imperfect people, God would be very lonely, because imperfect people are the only ones around.

There is still a part of us, however, that refuses to acknowledge or to be satisfied with our limitations. Asking for help is too often seen as a weakness. As a result, life becomes a competition. Many people fear that if they fail at something or make a mistake they won't be accepted. Yes, doing good is the ideal. But a mistake isn't necessarily a moral evil. And even your human sinfulness becomes the very way that you can experience the mercy and love that is God's forgiveness. In the midst of pain and failure Jesus is there to bring healing.

However much you may want to avoid imperfection and pain, there is no growth or maturity without suffering. As you continue to discover, life is often a process of trial and error where you learn not despite your mistakes, but because of them. Perhaps you’ve heard this saying: The only real failure is the one from which we learn nothing. Perfectionism tries to leave no room for failure which leaves no room for growth. It denies the truth that there is an unfinished quality to human life.

Was Jesus perfect? The answer depends on what you mean by perfect. One definition of perfect states, something that is excellent or complete, beyond improvement. Another definition reads, without any flaws or shortcomings. As observed, we can't even get a perfect definition of perfect!

From the perspective of Jesus, perfection is about love and service, about letting go of the things that get in the way of your following him. It doesn't have anything to do with getting good grades every time or always being in the winning team. Perfectionism, as seen through the eyes of faith, is about wholeness. It invites you to love and serve others without concern for gain or notoriety, to accept and care for all of God's people. At the same time, the path to wholeness, or humanness, recognizes imperfection.

As you continue to be “in process” it is good to know that God perseveres with you. God waits and loves and calls us to respond to one another in the same way.

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