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Take It and Leave It

February 4, 2023
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Philippians 3:12-14

12 Not that I have already grasped it all or have already become perfect, but I press on if I may also take hold of that for which I was even taken hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not regard myself as having taken hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

“Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org”

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God has been dealing with me once again on perfection. It is like the never-ending story over here. My expectations of myself climb to the peak of Mount Everest regularly. I can almost always find something that needs to be improved with myself or something I have done. The thoughts that constantly cross my mind are negative and overwhelming, and often right past the good parts of a situation. That story would have been perfect if I had just . . . or This would be the best moment if I only had . . . run through my mind nonstop like an endless scroll unrolling with what is missing from every situation. I will critique myself right into a corner of resentment even in the middle of joy. I should have finished this. I should have worked faster. I should have been kinder. I should have . . . well, you get the picture.

But take heart friend, my perfect expectations do not discriminate. I can find a little more something needed just about anywhere. All the people, places, and things apply. My kids: if they just would have studied one hour more, they could have gotten that A. The grocery store: this aisle setup would have been so much more efficient if they had just put those items over here. My church: things would be so much better if they played that song or ran that program this way. My husband: well, y’all just go ahead and pray for him now. Poor guy probably gets the worst of it.

My mind stays full of all the suggestions of how everything could be perfect if there was just this one more thing. The serenade of perfection’s reach constantly sings my name, keeping me distracted from the light of a situation. It sings my name with friends and strangers. It sings my name in my meal planning, my exercise routine, my house, my yard, and on and on. It even sings my name with my faith.

Lord, I will be a perfect Christian when I don’t make any more mistakes. No more shame or failure. Only good choices, sincere faith, and perfect praise. He will love me so much if I could just get it right.

But here’s the thing—God never once asked me for perfection.

Oh, and He loves me anyway.

He loves my imperfect self and all my expectations. (He laughs at them, but loves them.) He loves me just as I am right now if I never do another thing. But that means He also loves my church just as it is. He loves my children just as they are. He loves my husband just as he is. He even loves the grocery store just as it is, even if they put the crispy fried onions in weird places.

He loves everything and everyone in all the imperfections because He is already perfect enough. No matter who, no matter where, no matter what. His perfect love is the same. Even though we, and our expectations, are all so different. And it just might be that all those differences are exactly the point we are meant to take from it all. Let’s make it more complicated.

What is perfect for me may not be perfect for you.

Ouch. Felt the conviction on that one.

Since God made us all unique and beautifully different, that means it is unlikely that what I find perfect and improved will be the same as what you see as perfect and improved.  What I like and you like, what I need and what you need, and even what I see and what you see are often going to be two different things. What I consider done, finished, great, whole, brilliant, or amazing is different than what someone else will. Different lives, experiences, likes, dislikes, hurts, and healings give us all our own perspectives.

So, that means that even if you are like me in that we both are hounded by the compulsion to find the out-of-place thing, if our eyes and ears and mind only see hear and think in terms of what is missing from the moment, if we are the same in our ability to walk into a room and see all that is wrong, we will likely still see different things.

There is no way that my perfect can be your perfect. See the problem? Someone will always be unhappy because no perfect will ever be perfect for us all.

Except one. Jesus.

Now let that sink in, Jesus is perfect, for each of us. Now there is a level of perfection I can’t wait to get to Heaven to see. A perfection that is perfect for everyone.

So, what do we do with all that? If we have eyes for improvement but can’t achieve perfection, how do we move forward?

I have only come up with thing, thanks to the words of Paul. We move forward by recognizing this race is a journey, not a destination. There will not be perfect here on this earth. The only perfection I can find is in Him. I have to stop looking at situations by what is missing and start looking at what is there. What beauty and light can I take away in my heart and what can I leave behind?

I might find that what I left behind was perfect for someone else. Maybe that girl really needed those crispy fried onions to be on aisle four. I just need to celebrate that I knew where the ice cream was.

Paul’s words are my reminder. My reminder that nothing on this side of the grave will be perfect. Not even me. Not even my faith.

My expectations can climb right on back down that mountain because perfection is not what my God expects of me. And I am not supposed to expect it of you either. He did not create me for my opinion but for something greater. Need more proof? Think about it, if He created me for my opinion on how things can be perfect and our opinions differ, then who is right in God’s eyes? See—not the point.

The relationships, my kids, my church, my faith, myself, none of these things were ever created to be perfect but only to offer me a chance to search for light in a troubled world. Those beautiful things are there as opportunities to serve, shine light, and find joy. Not opportunities for me to nitpick them into my perfection.

I am meant to be blessed by these things, not find their faults. I can seek what is perfect on this earth all I want, but again—not the destination. It is a journey in which I experience life, people, events, locations, conversations, and moments that offer me a little something to light my way. I am to take those joys and keep going, not stay and make it perfect for me. I must find the light while I am in that moment and then go look for more. Leave the rest behind for God to use as He wants to.

I hear you loud and clear Paul. I have not grasped it either. I am not perfect, and I won’t be until He comes back for me and I get to hang out in Heaven. I cannot regard myself as having taken hold of it. I can only look forward to what lies ahead. Jesus. Peace. Sweet perfection for us all.

Shannon Leach is a slice-of-life encouragement writer and the owner of A Repurposed Heart and ARH Inspirations. Her authentic stories and books about leadership, life, and loving people focus on encouraging others and reminding them they are not alone. Her work can also be found in Guideposts and multiple Chicken Soup for the Soul books. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and is the co-founder of the nonprofit The Fostered Gift.
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