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When Perfection Never Comes

For most of my life, I have lived, believing I could be perfect. I could perfect the things that I wasn’t good at. I could make right the wrong, I could change the world into a utopia for myself, my family and friends. My health should be getting better and better because of the knowledge I have obtained. My ways of coping with difficulties should be getting better and better, because I have experience now. My relationships with family and friends should be nearing perfection because of the long, hard work we have all put in. My emotional responses should be leveling out by now. And last but not least, my relationship with God should be on the rise–I should be growing in my knowledge, understanding and love for Him and for others. But why am I still struggling?

I’m struggling. I’m fighting day by day. I feel as if the hill is getting steeper the longer I climb, like the mountain is getting higher and my body more weary. But I’m holding onto the perfect. So when the days are tough, I tell myself that I will be perfect, I will be getting better. Then I’m disappointed when I find my body aching, my relationships not quite right, my mind feeling fractured and broken. It’s depressing and anxiety inducing. What is wrong with me? Do others hurt like this? I know people have problems, but surely not of this depth.

People I love are dying. They’re gone now. Where has that perfect utopia gone? My friends are losing their faith, drastically changing their worldview. Where is this perfection that I am seeking? Marriages are being destroyed, families are desperately broken. My body is giving in, disease is spreading. Where is this world going?

I thought I could change things. I thought if I work to have perfectly behaved children, the most romantic marriage, a beautiful house…to share with our friends who perfectly share our worldview–life will get better and better. But it doesn’t appear to be happening. My utopia is slowly crumbling. Even when I see answers to prayer in miraculous ways, I still observe the hurt. Even though I still fiercely believe that God is able, loving and kind–this world is broken.

Many years ago I remember reading John Wesley’s work, who believed that we were being perfected day by day. He greatly encouraged the practice of “methods” or what we might call spiritual disciplines (prayer, devotional times, fasting, church attendance, tithing, etc) today, emphasizing the importance of growth in the Christian life, heading towards Christ’s perfection. But what he came to realize later in life was that it really wasn’t possible. We can’t obtain this perfection. Not that the spiritual disciplines are invalid (they are incredibly valuable!), but that the point of them is not to obtain a faultless ideal life, but rather to grow deeper in relationship with Jesus and extend that relationship to a hurting world. My natural tendency to perfect everything and everyone around me has just come under serious attack.

Jesus gave himself for us. And he is continually giving himself for us. Even to the point that his physical body was broken. He was killed. God took all of our hurt, our inability to be perfect and placed it on Jesus. So that he could be the perfect lamb, the perfect sacrifice for us–building a bridge between God’s perfect holiness and our perfect weakness. And we are enough. Not by our own doing or anyone else… it was Jesus. And it is Jesus.

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely (1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT)

Today, when I obliterate the perfection that I constantly seem to strive for, when I find my body in pain, when my marriage is struggling, when I don’t know how to parent my daughter, when our dear friend passes away, when I see hurt…I will remember Jesus. He is the perfection that I can never be. And when I see glimpses from day to day of his perfection, I will revel in them–knowing that one day I will know completely–fully able to worship in perfection at Jesus’ feet.

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