Sunday, January 29, 2012

How Am I Imperfect? Let Me Count The Ways...

My experience with trying to be a perfectionist hasn't meshed too well with parenthood. Each time I try being a perfect wife/mother/housekeeper, I'm determined to find a Perfectionists' Anonymous group.

In mere seconds, I can manufacture my own indoor-whirlwind, tear through the house on a mission to recapture some version of perfection, and end up maiming my husband, children, and a few cats in the process. It's not pretty. Ask my family. And so, I try, instead, to leave the perfection mark behind me and live each preschooler-twin-filled day with a bucket-load of God's mercy and grace...along with constant knee-bending failure, knowing that I will likely never feel like I am in sight of measuring up, not ever again.

Christ, though, tells me to take my best shot at perfection anyway: "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:38).

It's a verse that, frankly, has made me flippantly say, "Yeah, yeah. Act like Jesus" and push forward to the next verse because the gut conviction is always there, always. This verse has made me feel like a failure in more ways and at more times than I can count--all while I really am striving to be like Christ and the Holy Spirit lives within me!

It goes something like this: Yelled at Wyatt because he filled 12 cups with water versus dressed himself to go prayer walking. Failure. Growled at husband for not being home on time last night. Failure. Anger in my heart. Failure. And this was all before breakfast was over.

With this kind of morning, it would be easy to turn my back on that verse in Matthew. God doesn't work that way, though. In His providence, He led me to an eight week study of the book of James where, four verses in, he uses the same exact Greek word for "perfect" (teleios) that Christ used above in the Sermon on the Mount.

James speaks of enduring trials of one's faith, saying, "And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (Jas. 1:4). Later, when speaking of controlling the tongue (one of those trials of faith), he says, "For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well" (Jas. 3:2)

I looked it up.

Perfect does mean perfect (sigh). But it's something more, too. Strong's defines it as "
brought to its end, finished; wanting nothing necessary to completeness"* The Expositor's Bible Commentary defines "perfect" the same way: "that which has achieved or reached its goal, objective, purpose...full-grown...fully developed."**

While I tend to view being perfect as an all or nothing proposition where I'm either perfect or I'm not, God's version of perfect is different--it's a process of endurance with an end goal in sight.

Instead of beating ourselves up for demonstrating our obviously imperfect selves, based on this definition, we should understand that being perfect means daily walking a path towards perfection, something that although we attempt to practice now, we won't completely have until we have become fully grown in the faith.

God knows we are works in progress. It's the direction that's important.

A second concept I'm beginning to grasp is that perfection is not something we are to do alone. Yes, Christians all have the Holy Spirit within to lead them in the paths of righteousness, so we are never really becoming perfect "alone." But, it's more than that.

The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary states, "Paul revealed his understanding of the necessity of working together towards perfection when he stated that the goal of his ministry was to be able to 'present everyone mature' (Col. 1:28). Therefore, all Christians are reminded that the goal is to help one another reach completeness as Paul was striving to do in his ministry" (1275).

This is why we are to "neglect not the assembling of yourselves" together in corporate worship. This is why we are to sit under Scripture-based teachers who will drag us kicking and screaming through the tough, convicting verses we might blink right over if left to our own devices. This is why it is important to have an accountability partner who helps us on our road to becoming mature Christians.

In the end, I've decided if Matthew 5:38 doesn't stick in our throats,
perhaps that is of more concern than if it does. Are we striving in the Spirit in the direction of perfection? Or are we comfortable in our imperfections?

If those fleshly imperfections don't gnaw at our conscience, making us repent and turn to God, that's a bigger soul problem than a morning full of failures on a path upward.

*Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for teleios (Strong's 5046)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2012. 29 Jan 2012. < http://
Strongs=G5046&t=KJV >

**Expositor's Bible Commentary. Vol. 12. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990: 203.

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