What Price Perfection?

I’ve been off from work for a few days, the old vacation-thing. Didn’t go anywhere. No, last week I made a list of things around the house that required urgent attention from me, and I took the time off from work to take care of them. The list had grown considerably by the time my wife added her requests to the tally, and for a while the issue was in doubt as to whether or not I’d be able to complete the tasks within the set time frame I’d established. But I did and I’m back at work this week with a sense of accomplishment and a renewed purpose in life. Really.

Buried in paperwork (amazing how it can pile up while you are away) I began this week with a feeling much akin to being overwhelmed, which is usually how I feel when I return to work after being out for a few days. I’ve learned through maturity and patience that you simply knock out one item at a time and eventually it all gets taken care of. But I’m drifting this morning in a back-washed sea of rabbits, I know.

I was drinking coffee this morning and talking on the phone when my eyes happened to focus in on a picture my daughter gave me for Father’s Day earlier this summer. It’s a picture of she and I on her wedding day, both of us smiling as I walked her down the aisle. Truth be told, I’m actually smiling at her like fathers do toward their daughters, and she is just smiling because of the day and what it meant for her. But it is her smile that caught my attention; the golden hair, blue eyes, and most of all her perfect teeth. Those teeth are perfectly straight, the sum of braces when she was younger at a time when her dad had a difficult time paying for them. They are also white, not white like you normally use the word to describe something, but glowing, ethereal white, almost leaping from the photographic paper. She must have had them cleaned or bleached, whitened, or whatever it is they do these days to achieve that result.

My teeth have always been bad. Crooked and discolored, a product of my own doing as well as my growing up at a time when braces had not been invented yet –at least not the affordable kind. I could change that, I could. Adult braces are becoming popular and whitening products are all the rage on the dental hygiene shelves down at Wal-Mart. Or I can merely close my mouth when someone points a camera in my direction and not worry about it. I choose the latter. It’s too late in life and I’ll be replacing them soon enough with artificial choppers anyway. Then I’ll smile for the camera.

Perfection as far as my teeth are concerned is not of vital importance to me. Probably a good thing, too. I work out at the gym religiously and watch what I eat most of the time, but my goal is not perfection in that area, either. I do what I do in those regards purely for my health these days and besides, it makes me feel better when I do so. I’ve long since given up on perfection in relationships, especially after I came to grips with the truth that I am not perfect, therefore, by the same token, I cannot expect to find perfection in others. Perfection in any facet of life is difficult, and probably impossible to obtain.

The impossibility of perfection makes it very hard for me to fathom when I consider how Jesus used the term during the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5, he states, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Be perfect. (I get this mental image of Bill and Ted saying ‘Be excellent to each other’) How can I be perfect, or how can I find perfection, when I have so many flaws in my life and in my daily walk with G_d? I mean, let’s face it, I can’t garner the ability to reach perfection with my teeth, much less in the way I try to handle sin in my life. It is beyond me.

Maybe it is the value I place in perfection to begin with. I can get away with crooked, dingy teeth. I can get away with an extra pound or two and even a ‘success paunch’. I can get away (sometimes) with being a less-than-stellar father or husband. But I can’t get away with being a less-than-perfect Christian. According to that verse in Matthew, I must be perfect. Jesus didn’t say ‘try to be’ or ‘make it a goal to be’; he simply said ‘be perfect’. It’s kind of a command when you look at it that way, don’t you think?

There is a price for this perfection that Jesus mentions, but it has already been paid. When I accept what He did on the cross, (His perfect work not mine) and believe in my heart that the grave could not hold Him - I am on my way. By hiding me, covering me with His blood, and no longer depending on my own perfection but by taking on His, there is a way to reach that state of perfection. When I stand before G_d, it is not my imperfections He sees, although there are so many. Instead He sees the only thing that matters; that I am cloaked in the righteousness of His Son. “Dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.”

My perfection was bought with a price; it was truly an amazing grace that purchased it.

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