Let me begin with some full disclosure here: by the time I post this, I will be back at home and at my desk. But as I’m actually writing it, I’m sitting at a wooden table on a deck overlooking the Caribbean Sea just off the Yucatan Penninsula. I am coming to the close of what may be one of the most perfect vacation days, in a life filled with many blessed, beautiful days of vacation all over the world. This may very well be the best of all possible days.
So, why am I thinking about “embracing the imperfection”? Well, it is the fault of my friends at Wednesday Night Words.
The night before we packed off to Mexico, our group had yet another lively discussion of a Biblical text, this time John 14:15-21. As always, many interesting and touching things were disucssed and shared, but the one that has stuck with me these last days was the reaction of some to the first verse of that passage: “If you love me, keep my commandments.” For some, that passage invoked feelings of failure and hopelessness. I saw the sadness in their eyes and heard the pain in their voices as they related how that verse made them always feel as if they could not beloved, because in their humanity what chance did they have to “successfully” keep His commandments.
I wanted to say to them, no, it isn’t so, but I didn’t really have anything but my own fervent belief to offer them as words of comfort.
I have been thinking a lot about the dichotomy between our need, particularly as Americans, to be perfect, between that pull and our ever present knowledge that perfection is an unattainable state. And I have decided (after my perfect day at the beach) that perfection is a perception, not an objectively quantifiable state. Therein lies the fallacy in our success-oriented thinking: when is something perfect? Is it only perfect if it scores 100% on the check list of our own or society’s creation for the purpose of analysis of the event or the person in question? I am here to suggest that everything is perfect, if we just let it be.
And that, gentle reader, includes our very own selves.
You see, in this day that has so often left me feeling like I am the star of my very own movie, I realize I am surrounded by imperfection. I am at a resort that, years ago, I vowed I would never return to because it was too large and the beach too rocky. These things have not changed, but the developer has managed to created a little corner in this great big resort that is an oasis of calm that feels like a private paradise. Through the strategic placement of artificial reefs, they have tamed a wild sea and revealed a private, swimmable beach, creating a wonderful environment for snorkelers and sea life alike. The imperfection of nature surrounds me here, just as it does in my garden, which to many eyes looks like a chaotic jumble of mismatched plants and roses grown wild and out of control.
But to me, it is all perfection, resort and garden. Just as they say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I am coming to the conclusion that perfection is also in the heart and the soul of the beholder. I’m pretty certain that Jesus would say it is just that way in the realm of the spirit, that as the children’s song says, we are all perfect in His sight.
And so today, and I hope every day moving forward, I embrace the imperfection, knowing that there is perfection there if I will just take it in. And I say to my friends, you are loved even when you don’t succeed at the checklist. And I’m pretty certain that Jesus agrees with me.
(Written May 27, 2011; posted June 1, 2011)