There was a time a few years ago when I coined a phrase that came to me one day, “Perfection is the Lord’s prerogative and the fool’s mission.” I thought it was pretty nifty at the time because, as an A-type neurotic, I was trying to convince myself that seeking perfection in myself and those around me was not really doing any of us any good, and in most cases, really bad. I hoped that by living this mantra, and wishing not to be that fool I was talking about, my neurosis would fade and I would be justified in slacking a bit. Yeah, well…But then, I kept on coming across this verse in the bible, “Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” My first reaction, like most, was, ‘Whaaaaaaaat?’ How in the world am I supposed to be, not just perfect, but the epitome of divine perfection?
Well, with a little bit of biblical research I discovered that the true translation of perfection in this case is ‘complete’. Be made whole. Be complete not only in your earthly composition, good at what you do, good at your relationships, good at being a person, but also good at being a Christian. Good at being like Christ. Good at being holy. And with some more thought and prayer it came to me that as with all things that seem impossible, if I asked, God would show me how. In fact with a little more introspection, He had even provided me with the pieces I need to be complete in the persons of my dearest family members. God has provided me with perfect examples of the specific Christ-like behavior that were missing in my very own make-up, so that I too could have that chance at the perfected completeness of Matthew 5:48.
The first example is Ellie – a wife that has always demonstrated true patience and faith. Ellie personifies patience in every situation and with every person. And no one would know this better than me, the primary beneficiary of this extraordinary warehouse of tolerance. It is Ellie’s patience that has kept us married for 33 years. Coupled with this amazing patience is inexhaustible faith. Ellie’s faith in others is a lesson that I am still trying to master. For most of our relationship we have come from opposite ends when it comes to trusting people and believing the best about them. She’s always been a ‘cup’s half full’ type of person. And boy, that’s a breath of fresh air for a kid from the Bronx.
Then there is Ben – a son that models a near perfect temperance of attitude. I’m pretty sure that no one that knows me long enough would call me even-keeled, whereas Ben is never too hot or too cold. One of the great lessons anyone can learn in life is the power of perspective. How important will this be tomorrow, or a week from now, or a year? If anything, Christ is always reminding us to keep the long view and not get hung up on the small stuff – right? In a life where everything is ‘critical’, how can you tell what’s really important? Ben manages to keep his perspective and he does it with a sense of humor and wit that is always seemingly understated and most times brilliant. If there is anything that I need in my life it is perspective and it is Ben who delivers it regularly with humility and measure.
And of course Julie – a daughter that never ceases to inspire me. She has been overcoming adversity ever since the nasty little bits of my genetics slipped through the cracks of her mom’s baby maker. For someone still so young she has had too many opportunities to give up and check out. I know I would have. But she remains as tenacious as ever. Julie is an over-comer. She is an exceptional example of persistence and living a day at a time. She continually teaches me the virtue of getting up when you are knocked down and starting over. There are times, each day, when I’m about to quit on something or someone, or on me, and I think of what that sweet girl of mine has endured and my little pity party comes to an end.
So, I now see, it is with the divine gifts of these virtuous bits of perfected humanity that God places before us on our road to completeness that become our salvation. Seek them out, hold them close and give thanks that they are there by God’s good grace as part of the journey to becoming made whole.