Perfection…a recipe for Disappointment

Anyone remember this game from Milton Bradley?   Amazon.com writes a great description, “Even adults will be challenged by attempting to fit all 25 pieces into place before the 60-second alarm sounds. These complex geometric shapes need to be matched with the appropriate hole before the whole tray pops up and sends them flying in an explosion of yellow plastic.”

Alex has been really eager to play games with us.  Unfortunately, most of our collection works great for adults.  His typical response when going through the game closet?  “This is ANOTHER boring game for adults, huh?”  I guess I’ve used that phrase a few too many times to get him away from taking out each and every part, piece, buzzer, card, “golf” pencil, game board, domino, bingo sheet, and poker chip.

When he pulled out Perfection this morning, the teacher in me realized (cue:  thought bubble)….”HEY!  SHAPE RECOGNITION OPPORTUNITY!  HAND / EYE COORDINATION PRACTICE!”  And so his new obsession began.  Considering Alex’s patience threshold, I was surprised how he never seemed to give up when pieces weren’t fitting.  He kept trying and reassessing.

When he realized that he just wasn’t going to be able to do it all in sixty seconds, he didn’t throw himself down on the floor and start having Tantrum Takes on 2011.  He just turned off the buzzer and completed the task without the time limit.  THEN…..he set the buzzer.  And waited 60 seconds….

And then enjoyed the pieces all flying (although our game doesn’t quite have the original ferver of the aforementioned “flying in an explosion of yellow plastic” description).  Alex’s look here doesn’t seem fully convinced that the {*POP*} was all that life-changing.

 

Wikipedia states that “Perfection is, broadly, a state of completeness and flawlessness.”  The article also shared that Aristotle (that cute dude above) had a 3 part definition of perfection:

1. which is complete — which contains all the requisite parts;

2. which is so good that nothing of the kind could be better;

3. which has attained its purpose

 

When I read it in THOSE terms, I have to laugh at myself, Ms. Perfectionist.  Ms. Type A.  Ms. J (not just due to my maiden name, but due to my Myers Briggs personality type).  I constantly seek perfection.  I am hard on myself when I let people down, don’t finish the to do list, leave dishes in the sink before going to bed, yell at the kids rather than keeping my cool.  And yet, I’m a bit stunned to read those definitions of perfection.  Why in the world would I think I can be complete or flawless??  That nothing could be better?  Or that I’ve attained my purpose??

I guess Jesus knew this would be a sticking point with us.  And then folks who followed him and later carried on what he’d begun, knew it would be hard.  No doubt, they knew it because THEY WERE STRUGGLING WITH IT THEMSELVES.

Matthew shares a time when Jesus delved into this topic a bit in Chapter 5, the Beatitudes.    This teaching is hard.  You might remember part of it?


When Jesus* saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

3 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5 ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

7 ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

8 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9 ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

10 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely* on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

13 ‘You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

14 ‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

My favorite part?  After these 14 verses, he continues on with some more specifics for 30+ more, and ends with this one-two punch…..


‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.”

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

so that you may be children of your Father in heaven;

for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good,

and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?

Do not even the tax-collectors do the same?

And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,what more are you doing than others?

Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Did you catch that last verse??  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew’s quoting Jesus.  And Jesus is saying be perfect.  And not only “be perfect”….but be as perfect as GOD!?!?  What????  It’s these kinds of verses that seriously lead me to have a perfection complex.

Instead of completing losing it, though, I’m beginning to see a bigger story going on in scripture:  a message that starts to come through in community.  God had a lot of options when deciding how to make his presence  known here on Earth.  And for some reason, unbeknown to me, he chose to use US.  Us?  Me.  You.  Kids.  The checker at Whole Foods.  The postman.  The garbage man.  I’ll speak for myself, but would wager that we could apply it to everyone, though.  We’re not perfect.  As hard as we try to meet those three criteria that Aristotle defined, it’s just not gonna happen.

Maybe that’s a bit of a relief.  But this message is also a challenge to love.  To know that we haven’t (and won’t fully) reach “perfection”, but that we are still called to love.  And not just to love the fun and easy people.   But everyone.  Even our enemies.  Even our kids when they’re driving us crazy and feel like our enemies…

This will be a challenge for 2011.  And for 2012 and beyond, obviously. But rather than being disappointed in myself for the many ways and times I messed up in 2010, or the times I was too afraid to love since I couldn’t do it perfectly, I will seek to try.

 

 

p.s.  This is the second post inspired after joining Corrin at The Glorious Impossible to look back on this past year with a project called January Reflections.

 

2 thoughts on “Perfection…a recipe for Disappointment

  1. I’m really loving your blog, Christine. Thanks for sharing so much of your journey – I’m enjoying getting to know you in this way!

    I once heard a New Testament scholar say that the Matthean/Koine translation of “perfect” to be more akin to “mature”, like a fruit that has reached its full ripeness. That’s how I read the “attain its purpose.” The apple, before it is ripe, isn’t perfect. After it has ripened, though, it is fully an apple. It has become itself as God created it to be.

    That take on it helps me with the whole perfection thing. 🙂

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