Don’t give up on perfection

I am not a perfectionist. Not in the traditional sense of the word – I decided a long time ago that it was too difficult and painful to live that way, that I wasn’t going to be needlessly harsh and demanding on myself, trying to get everything right down to a tee.

But I am, in my own way, a perfectionist. Deep down, I still believe in and long for perfection.

flowers-decay
Photo credit: Double decaying via photopin (license)

Even in the beauty and majesty of Creation, of the Universe, there is a devastating brokenness. I long for the day that all things will be made new, restored. Perfect.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

Romans 8:22-23

In the same way, even though I am made in God’s image and likeness, even though He lives in and works in me, I am a flawed person. I long for the day that I will be transformed. Perfected.

Hopefully I’m getting to be a little more like Jesus with every passing day. That’s the idea anyway.

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Now, somehow I have extrapolated from this that my life is also being perfected in the same way. The more like Jesus I am, the more cohesion there will be in my life. Or something like that.

But it doesn’t work that way. I hate that it doesn’t work that way.

I’ve had a privileged life. I’ve had a life that is rich in many ways. I’ve had a good life and really don’t have anything to complain about. So I refuse to complain.

Yet I am constantly confronted by a sense that nothing’s wrong but something’s not quite right.

I have harboured a subconscious hope that one day I will find The Perfect Balance: a lifestyle that is right for me. And on that day, this “not quite right” feeling will go away.

This is a false hope. I’m starting to see that I will never get to a point where all aspects of my life are in harmony. It’s impossible in the context of the fundamental brokenness that characterises our present existence.

In fact, I suspect that the more like Jesus I become, the harder things will get. What I mean is that the discrepancy between what is and what should be will become increasingly, painfully, clearer to me. Which totally sucks.

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Ultimately, I believe this longing for perfection is the eternity in me crying out against the inadequacy of my current experience, yearning to be free of these mortal limitations.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11

It’s kinda tragic, isn’t it?

We refuse to sit still and let decay have its way. We rail against it.

We continue to strive for perfection, whether it’s through art or in our own lives. We might try to capture moments of beauty or eternity through a song or a painting. We might try to create a small snowglobe of eternity by cultivating the perfect family, the perfect job, the perfect routine – we can’t control the whole world but we can control our own lives (or can we?).

But more powerful than this is when we engage the darkness and bring healing to what is decaying, broken.

light-in-darkness
Photo credit: Archdiocese of Washington

I’ve talked a lot about justice in the last couple of years as I’ve begun to see how it is a narrative that permeates my faith and work. Seeking justice and restoration in the name of Jesus is an incursion of His eternity into a fallen world that doesn’t accept Him.

It’s a taste of perfection. By sharing His love with those around us – particularly those who are suffering – we declare that perfection, justice, healing, is possible in Him.

Defy the darkness. Be brazen against the brokenness. Spread some eternity around and don’t give up on the perfection that will be our reality when God makes all things new.

And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

John 1:5

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Note: I am heavily influenced by Platonic ideas, and particularly Augustine’s interpretation of these (quite succinctly explained in this article). I’m aware that this perspective dominates mainstream Christian thought and it’s something worth unpacking and reexamining.

Any comments, thoughts? I'd love to hear from you :)

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