I’m not sure when I first learned it, but I figured it out pretty early in life that to receive love, attention, affirmation, protection, and sustenance, I needed to be perfect. Looking back, I’m honestly in awe of how observant and sponge-like God made children. That’s a hell of a correlation for an infant or a toddler to make. That’s one hell of a correlation.
It is the hell in which I’ve been living for nearly three decades. It is hell because I think we all agree it is unattainable. You do agree with me, right? Maybe not, but I’m convinced that on this side of eternity perfection is impossible. And yet, here I strive after it unwilling to give up the ghost, day after day, year after year.
Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you’re aware of this tendency in yourself; there will be those who aren’t aware that it’s perfection you’re after. But I think many — if not most of us — are. It’s killing me. It’s probably killing you, too.
I think the author of Ecclesiastes saw this long before I was the glint in anyone’s eye. They wrote us a beautifully tragic letter — a love letter, if you will — about what they called vanity, a striving after the wind. The pursuit of perfection in my mind is just that, a striving after the wind. It is a warning I’ve not heeded. I would’ve done well to have listened, but such is the course of maturation sometimes. Perhaps it’s because the close of another year of my existence on this earth is drawing near, but I’m willing to give the author’s words another look; in looking over the last year, I’m a little more willing to take stock of who I am and what comprises my heart.
What if imperfections, the areas and instances where we have felt and experienced failure, were not fatal but rather like the facets of a diamond? What if what I considered unsightly and unlovable is anything but? What if, in this world of imperfection, my own imperfections — the way they come together, the way they conflict, and the interplay with what I consider to be strengths — are beauty marks and attributes that like art or pottery make me unique and thus more worthwhile? What if the cracks, the scratches, the bruises, the breaks, are where the Light shines through?
In fact, I will challenge this idea of weakness and say I believe our imperfections are the areas where our Father has the greatest opportunity to show His love and compassion. The attributes we feel most empty of His glory are the areas where we are most capable of shining, because we do not have the ego or the arrogance to dim the glass, if you will.
Paul understood this all too well and I would do well to heed his words in 2 Corinthians 12. God’s power is made perfect in weakness. I will repeat that for my own edification: my Father’s power is perfected in my weakness.
This completely wrecks my worldview…if I allow myself to be vulnerable to the passage’s truth. My fatal flaw is fatal no more. It was never fatal to begin with. Imperfection is perfection of another kind, one which I may not be able to truly grasp in this life. However, it is no less important for me to try and understand that my weakness is opportunity. My flaws are how the Gospel is told in and through my life. In them, I need sustenance, I need redemption. From my weakness I need salvation and compassion.
Weakness provides the best opportunity for others to see God’s love and compassion for the world in my words and deeds. Weakness empties me of my own pride and arrogance, giving the Holy Spirit cracks and holes to fill with His presence; imperfection is the spaces where God can most readily and visibly fill in our lives.
Friend, what if imperfection is the fingerprint of God in our lives? What if our flaws are rather marks of the Holy? What if our weakness is what truly makes us great, real, lovable? What would happen if we embraced our great and horrible shame?