Morning by Morning

"The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward." Isaiah 50:4-5

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Tyranny of Perfection

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Have you ever noticed that the most beautiful people don’t have perfectly regular faces?  That kind of regularity of perfection is an aberration because it flies in the face of the infinite variety of God’s creation.  One reason why we will recognize each other in the heavenly kingdom is that even when we are ‘perfected’ we will be as different as snowflakes.

That doesn’t stop us from applying an arbitrary standard of perfection on the rest our experience.  We, who are ourselves imperfect, impose the expectation of perfection on family and friends, on our jobs, our homes, our automobiles, and on our Church.  Nothing you know will be perfect in that abstract and bloodless sense of perfection.  You, yourself, are not perfect, and it doesn’t take much living to discover that others are not perfect either.  All of our jobs have a drawback somewhere or other.  Our homes are not perfect, the weather and wear will see to that.  The new car smell always wears off.  The Church is not perfect either.

Rather than expect an abstract standard of sinless and spotless perfection, consider the biblical words most often translated as ‘perfect’.  Both in the Old and New Testaments those words emphasize the qualities of maturity, completeness, and balance.  The Church is charged with building up the saints so that they may reach mature manhood, the measure and of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:11-12).  It is not charged with producing righteous robots who never make a mistake.  When you think of that, it is actually a tremendous break.  It means that there is space for all of us as we grow together in love and maturity.

If seeking perfection in creation is fruitless, on what should we place our expectation?  There is One who is perfect.  St. James tells us that, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”  It is God Himself who changes not, and those who put their trust in Him will not be disappointed.

As for other things, extending God’s mercy and grace to all of our human experience, we should set our attention on “whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, whatever is excellent (Phil. 4:8).  Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life, is the source of all wisdom, truth, and beauty, and those who follow Him strive to work out those qualities in their own lives and experience.  While an abstract standard of perfection is not within our grasp, love for others is, joy in God’s creation is; and when we let go of unrealistic expectations, peace of mind and heart is also within our grasp.

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