I Had Hoped To Be Perfect By Now
I’ve always wanted to be perfect. It seemed like a really cool thing to be.
I’ve known a lot of people who’ve seemed nearly perfect, so maybe being perfect might be a thing that could be attained.
I’ve heard people describe loved ones as being perfect; parents, grandparents, even spouses have rung that bell. Could it be that perfection can, indeed, be reached here on mortal soil?
If only I could be the perfect husband or father. Maybe a perfect friend to someone. And certainly, I thought that if I follow after God with all my heart, surely I could be formed into the perfect pastor, right?
Side note, we won’t be taking a vote any time soon as to whether or not I have been a perfect pastor. Though you will no doubt find many people who’ll suggest I’ve perfected certain other attributes that shall go unnamed here.
In the first of 3 letters from John included in the New Testament, he talks a bit about what it means to be perfect. Midway into the fourth chapter he dissects our perfection in love. If we love each other, and abide in God’s Holy presence, and if we confess Jesus as God’s Son, and then in turn abide in God’s love as he abides in us, then perfection also abides in us, at least where the love abides. That’s a lot of abiding.
At the risk of over-simplifying what John wrote, I wonder if that means God’s love comes to a kind of fullness in us as we allow God into our lives, and as we walk with Him. It’s not that you or I love perfectly, but our love is perfected because of God’s presence in us.
That fits in well with our understanding of the whole salvation narrative where we are seen righteous in the eyes of God not because of anything we do, but because of the covering presence of Jesus in us.
It’s like this: I used to dream of being perfected in playing baseball. I could tell you that I have no innate sports abilities whatsoever, but it’s also true that I never abided with with people who could teach me how to play well. I have dreamed of being perfected in songwriting, and for a few years, I had the privilege of abiding with people who had perfected that craft. However, since that time, my abilities have waned in proportion to my distance to those great abiding teachers.
I have known folks who seem to be perfected in love. And so, I find it wholly worthwhile of my ambition; to walk with Jesus and to figure out this love commodity more and more every day.
That seems to nail down this perfection thing, but it’s a rusty nail at best. I’ve learned this the hard way, over and over and over and ibid. Though I’m being made better at loving because of Jesus, not everyone recognizes it. In fact, it’s perfectly possible that I might love someone with the love of the Father, and they still completely reject me as being a, uh, well you insert your favorite negative description here. I’m sure it will apply.
The problem isn’t lack of desire, it’s good ol’ human nature. We are divide-and-haters par excellence. We love dividing and hating politically. We love dividing and hating racially. We love dividing and hating even in the things of God’s Kingdom. And as we deal with our own human frailties, it becomes so much easier to attribute our problems to someone else.
Occasionally you see those “#1 Dad” t-shirts or mugs. They might express our heart for our dear ol’ papas, but it’s sketchy as to how official those rankings really are.
And so, being perfect is subjected to so many differing assessments, none of us can ever really measure up to that goal in any sort of public way.
Sure, we can discuss the theology of being made perfect in Heaven. I would tend to lean towards that in agreement. But earthly perfection? Even the Jesus-covers-me-and-I-share-His-love perfection will bang heads with people simply inclined not to like me.
I like being liked, and I’ve struggled to be cleansed of the sin of people-pleasing. And because I’ve met with God’s hand of correction on that matter, I can be assured that all of you wonderful people out there will never find me to be perfect. And you yourself will likely only attain that height according to t-shirt and mug rankings.
Maybe I’ll be content to try to love one more person better, and then the next. And as Jesus testifies to my heart that I am being made perfect in love, I can allow that love to show through me a bit more today. I hope you can as well.