Monday, 22 April 2013

Chasing Perfection

I sometimes feel like I spend a lot of my time going after things which don't matter, at least they don't matter in the long term. I find myself preoccupied by insignificant things which begin to consume me. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be perfect. I have wanted to be the one with the perfect life, the perfect body, the perfect grades and the perfect everything. I wanted to have it all together. I wanted it all to be sussed out. I don't think I ever once stopped to ask myself what this perfect body or perfect life actually meant to me. I simply knew I wasn't meeting the criteria for whatever this mystery of "perfection" was. All I could be sure of is that it was unattainable, impossible, but I was damn right going to get there or at least die trying.

This led to heart ache, pain and the soul destroying knowledge that my best was never going to be enough. It didn't matter how much I improved or changed, but I knew deep down that perfection and myself were never going to be synonymous with each other. So what is perfection? What am I actually trying and failing so miserably to attain?

I decided to look to the dictionary as my first port of call... I figured this would be the easiest place to find the world's definition of it. I was surprised and confused to find that the Oxford English Dictionary lists 9 possible definitions of perfection. That is insane. How can one thing be defined in so many different ways? I decided to look at the first 2 definitions as a starting point:

1. The fact or state of being completed or perfected; consummation, completion or end

2. The most complete or perfect stage of growth or development of a person or thing; maturity, ripeness.

So here they are, but notice that the word included in defining perfection is the word perfect. But perfect is also a word thrown around a lot and is extremely subjective. So really I am no less confused than I was before. After all what is the stage of "completion"? What does it look like to be in the "perfect" stage of growth or development? The dictionary gives an example of a flower being in full bloom as the perfect stage of development. Does that mean that the flower is only perfect for the short time it blooms and then as soon as it begins to decay its beauty is lost?

Perfect. A word that is thrown around all the time. Yet do any of us actually know what it means? Again the words "complete" and "finished" come up a lot when I look this up. It also says being perfect is having a notable spiritual excellence or virtue, someone who is pure and blameless.

In short, reading these definitions only made me absolutely convinced that as myself, I measure up to none of these things. But, I also realised something else:

No one can be defined as perfect.

This is because no one is complete. Not in themselves. Not by what they do or what they achieve. So really chasing perfection is a hopeless cause, and you will lose. In fact, I hate to break it to you but you have already lost.

Yet, as Christians we throw around phrases like being perfect, and complete in Christ all the time. So given the apparently overwhelming evidence telling us that we will never reach perfection, how do I stand here today and say that when God looks at me, he sees something perfect, blameless, pure and beautiful? 

This is because of Jesus. This is because God gave his perfect son so that we may live. So that all of the mistakes we have made, all of the ways we fall short of perfection and all of the ways we have messed up can be repaired. Jesus lived as a human and in his short life he experienced every single emotion on the spectrum. He felt his heart shatter, he felt elation at being loved and he felt anger at injustice. Just like us. Jesus was fully human and yet fully God. He knew what it was to hurt. He knew what it was to rejoice and he knew what it was to be perfect in an imperfect world. It was hard. He was rejected, torn down, hated, persecuted and he died. He was separated from his Father after knowing him more intimately than we could imagine. But he did it willingly. He did it because he knew how much humanity was worth. He did it because he loves us. He did it because he knew that there was no other way. The day Jesus rose from the grave, he showed us what it was to live. He defeated the darkness and made a way for us, for me to achieve what is impossible to do alone: perfection

So yes, I have spent most of my life chasing shadows, but now I am found in the one who loves me. I am found in the one who has seen and forgiven every single mistake I have made, and who looks upon me with pleasure and love. I am found in the one who gives me strength when I am weak. I am whole in the presence of God. I am chasing after Jesus, the image of true perfection. And I know I will slip up and I know I will, and I have made mistakes, but when God looks at me he sees his son, who covers me in his love and grace, and he sees something beautiful. And something perfect. He is moulding me into his image, and there is no one I would rather chase after, no one I whose image I would rather share.

In Jesus I am whole. In Jesus I am perfect. I am blameless. I am free. In Jesus I have hope.

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