Perfection is not obtainable. We know this, intellectually. Or maybe we don’t.
Maybe it is reachable in a category. Say, cooking or baking. A perfect culinary creation, a cake made by a master chef. Or in a sports field. Figure skaters and gymnasts can achieve perfect 10’s. The SAT and ACT, perfect scores have been recorded. Or the one time a scientific experiment led to the discovery of something that changed history, is that not a perfect equation?
But what about everyday stuff. Relationships, words, conversations, parenting, jobs, school, learning. Learning.
Or what about raising a dog? It can be like raising a child sometimes. And we want well-behaved children and well-behaved pets. Honestly, it is hard to say that we don’t want some level of perfection from kids, dogs, ourselves, our parents, our neighbors, our pastors, our schools, our bosses, our co-workers, the clerk at the store, the postal service. Have I left something out? I mean, we can say that we don’t really want that, and I think it is true. How boring and Stepford-like to have perfect all of these things.
When the poop hits the fan and goes flying on any of these (church, family, schools, jobs, etc.), when the reality of our blessed humanity feels so blasted real, oy vey. Tell me then that we wouldn’t like a little perfection.
You see the precarious nature of the concept. Perfection is not a realistic goal, and yet our culture breeds the need for it in many arenas. The church is, I’m afraid, a great instigator in this quandary.
In my personal and internal life, it keeps cropping up. I have few answers. No answer seems to wrap anything up neatly. The only reasonable response is what my friend, Libby, used to utter repeatedly when we would pray together some years back. “Grace and mercy, Lord. Thank you for your grace and your mercies,” she prayed. Grace for me and for you. Mercy for me and for you. If I can receive it, I think it follows that I can also give it.
I would like to say that every part of me is cured of a desire for perfection, for pleasing people. More honestly, I would like to say that I’ve ceased caring what other people think of me, or my children or my dog. As gross as it is, that is what sits at the bottom of it: people-pleasing and poor self-worth. It is a graceless and merciless way to live. It would be nice to say I’m completely through with that manner of living.
We don’t arrive today. It is a long road. We have questions* along the way. I pray you’ll help me up when I fumble, when I miss it, when I don’t hit the target in the center. And when you’re not perfect, I will help you remember, as I remind myself, that perfection is not the goal for us.
*I spent some time over the weekend with our friend, Rusty Gates, over on Audio Liturgy Podcast. We spent some time talking about journeying with questions and grace and wonder and imperfection.