Striving for Perfection

Striving for Perfection

My two-year-old granddaughter is a real corker. She loves to imitate whatever she hears. So, when her French fry is too hot, she asks her daddy to blow on it. Then she tastes it, rolls her eyes and exclaims, “It’s perfect.” Shortly after witnessing Little Miss Perfect’s demonstration, I read St. Paul who says, “discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect(Romans 12:2, emphasis added). What is this perfect thing? Even Jesus gets in on the act with “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48, emphasis added). It’s clear to me that even God wants us to be perfect, and I’m off by a long shot.

Worldly Perfections

Anyone who watches television’s Martha Stewart hears the “p-word” at least 20 times during every show. Soufflés are perfect; paint color is perfect; the hem is perfect; and the herb garden is perfect. The pressure is on, folks. We have this obsession with doing everything perfectly. Anyone who has been in the army, a nursing school, convent or seminary can still make the perfect bed without a wrinkle.

This cannot be what Jesus has in mind. Does he really care about all this minutia? Does God care about the outward details? God says to Samuel that “the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Hence, God picks David, a young shepherd boy, for king (1 Samuel 16:6-13).

The Deeper Question

So what does “perfect” means to our culture, our Church and our God. My suspicion is that there are vast chasms between the meanings of each of these ideas of perfection. God doesn’t care if our table linens match the floral arrangement. Does our eternal salvation depend on a 4.0 GPA? Can anyone really make a perfect Act of Contrition?

Our culture sets the standards high. We set our children up for failure by demanding perfect grades, perfect games and perfect behavior. It’s just plain hogwash and very dangerous to do this. I have told hundreds of parents that their job is not to raise perfect children, but to raise happy human beings. That requires accepting each child just as he or she is.

We have a mandate from our heavenly Father to love our children with all their imperfections and with no conditions. If our child never makes a select sport’s team, cannot even spell “Dean’s List” and is working his way out of bankruptcy, God demands that we still love him with all our heart.

Perfection in God’s language means being all that we can be. God created us with amazing potential. God could have said, “Be 75 percent kind to drivers at rush hour, 60 percent honest on your taxes, 40 percent chaste and 95 percent generous at Christmastime,” but he didn’t. Or God could have said, “Just be good and do what feels comfortable.” God doesn’t compromise. It’s important that we believe we can meet God’s demands for 100 percent holiness.

What God knows and what we often forget is that God’s brand of perfection has everything to do with love and nothing to do with our abilities. Love is the divine energy that moves within each of us. God’s love is perfect and abides deep within our souls. When we connect with it, we can be perfected lovers. Now, we’re talking!

The next time you fail, stop and allow yourself to be held in God’s arms. Literally stop and feel God hold you, for love is a very physical thing. Our heavenly Father knows we are born to be perfect, and he will do the perfecting. As long as we keep trying to do good, please Jesus by following him and allow our Father to love us, we are right on course. Even if the French fries are too hot, your soufflé fell, the herb garden is full of weeds, and you painted your house glow-in-the-dark pink, you are still one perfect reflection of the Divine One.

Reprinted with permission by The Catholic Telegraph.

Photo Credit:  Radim Strojek/photoXpress


About the Author

Jeanne Hunt is a product development director at Franciscan Media. She is a well-known speaker and author on topics of women’s spirituality, marriage and family life. Her latest book is Celebrating Saints and Seasons: Hundreds of Activities for Catholic Children.