In 2006 one of Pollock’s paintings sold for $ 140,000,000.
So, are you a mess or a masterpiece?
You don’t have to be a perfectionist to be bugged by your flaws. No one likes to fail, show weakness or make a mistake. And, if you have any kind of religious background, the concept of “spiritual perfection” can really do a number on you.
The way we interpret scriptures like “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect,” can set us up for zealous legalism or total defeat.
An egotistic mind takes scriptures like these and applies them like a mathematical mandate. That can lead to head-based, black and white, good or bad thinking that results in our pretending, splitting, and living in denial that evil could exist in us.
God knows we are flawed. And God doesn’t beat us over the head with it.
But, God’s acceptance of our weakness never lessens his desire for our wholeness.
It’s all in how we go about getting there.
The secret is learning to participate in God’s perfection. As we “abide in him” we grow into God’s wholeness.
However, much of church history has been dominated by “ladder theology” where our spirituality has been judged by outward performance, willpower, and acceptable moral achievement.
This is far from the way Jesus intended us to live.
Once he told this parable:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18)
Jesus’ set-up is brilliant. People look up to the Pharisees and despise the tax collectors. From the get-go we already know who the good guy and the bad guy are. The crowd must have gone…”Come on, Jesus. This one’s too easy.”
But, hold on.
In this story the bad guy wins. Jesus is totally messing with us. This can’t be a “religious story.”
Jesus emphatically teaches us to despise the
pretense of perfection and admire humble confession.
But, nah. We don’t buy this lesson. We keep motoring in the direction of perfection.
It makes no sense to our finite minds that the Sinless Son of God should stand up for a messed up, shameful person.
Yet, it is the sickly, unseemly people that really get God’s attention. Blind eyes, deaf ears, and outcasts – did not repel him, they compelled him. He preferred to dine with the destitute, call on the crippled and welcome the wayward. The baddest man in the region? Jesus is headed to his house. A compromised woman with perfume? He says, I’ll make her famous.
Jesus doesn’t badmouth our brokenness.
Even, if we should have known better.
Then, why is it that when the sorry shambles of our life breaks public, we think we’re done? Or, if someone we know turns up tainted, we run?
Where did we learn this?
Not from God.
Jesus is a lover and gatherer of the splintered pieces of what was our lives (get this: even if it used to be known far and wide as an exemplary, lovely Christ-honoring life) and like a master artisan; he finds a way to refit and restore what is left into something surprising and breathtaking. And from all those nasty shards he makes something so purely whole that it shows off his glory in something splendidly new.
Mess or masterpiece?
Don’t hide or deny your brokenness. Confess it. Repent of it. And, like the tax collector, make it your offering to God-because without it you might not even know you need God.
Richard Rohr says, “Imperfection is the organizing principle of the entire human, historical, and spiritual enterprise. Imperfection, in the great spiritual traditions, is not just to be tolerated, excused, or even forgiven. It is the very framework inside of which God makes the god-self known (to us) and calls us into gracious union. It’s what allows us and sometimes forces us to fall into the arms of the living God.”
The real goal is not private perfection but divine union. When you’ve experienced any level of divine union or connectedness you know that you have been chosen and loved even in your imperfection. That kind of love can flip a person right side up. It’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. (Romans 2:5)
Rohr goes on to state “a spiritually mature person could use the word perfection and know they are talking about God’s perfect abiding in us. An immature and still egocentric person will think of it as a moral achievement that they can personally attain by trying harder.”
So, in light of this now read Philippians 3:9,15 “I no longer seek any perfection from my own efforts… but only the perfection that comes from faith and is from God… We who are called perfect must all think in this way…”
Why should we embrace our imperfections?
Because God does.
God chooses to love the human, the ordinary, our imperfect world, an imperfect us. Even more counterintuitive is that God seems to actually use and find necessary for our growth the very things we fear, avoid, deny, and deem unworthy. This blows our minds!
So, a truly perfect person ends up being one who can consciously forgive and include imperfection rather than one who thinks he or she is above and beyond it.
You come to God not by being strong, but by being weak; not by being right, but through your mistakes; not by self-admiration but by self-forgetfulness. We know… this is shocking! And yet it shouldn’t be. Both Jesus and the Apostle Paul lived and taught us this.
This is the good news of the gospel.
When you have faced your own imperfection, impurity and unwillingness to love then you are actually ready to believe that the gospel means that God loves, forgives and transforms all… including those “bad guys.”
We are learning to hold the mixture of both the dark and the bright sides of ourselves in the compassionate way our Heavenly dad does.
Author Hugh Prather has said, “ Forgiveness doesn’t excuse behavior; it looks past it to a greater truth.
In the tragic part of our story, there is no excusing what happened. But it has been fully and profusely confessed, wept over, investigated, profoundly owned and presented to God. All that’s left now is for us to live into that much greater truth.
Indeed we are.
And the really good news is, so can you.
* A part of this blog is an excerpt from the book Nothing to Prove: Find the Satisfaction and Significance You’ve Been Striving for at the Core of Your True Identity by David and Caron Loveless. To get more information on this book or to order it, CLICK HERE.
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