Perfection or Nothing

Devotional originally posted September 21, 2016.

Many years ago someone said to me, “If you expect either perfection or nothing, you’ll get nothing.” I think I understood the meaning of this in a vague sort of way, thought it sounded wise, and then banked it somewhere in my subconscious.

This idea has been brought back to me recently with different words that have really caught my attention. Someone said, “If you’re always looking for the ideal in life, you can’t be really living in the moment. You will always be dissatisfied.”

Although I don’t think of myself as a perfectionist, I do know myself to be always looking for the ideal, the best, the greatest, the number one, the most beautiful, the first-class, the most famous, the smartest, the way things SHOULD be. I think this comes from somehow being taught never to settle, never to give up, to set my sights high, to strive, strive, strive. And I have expected this from others too.

There are certainly some good points to trying our best and setting good standards, but for myself I’ve realized that if I am extreme in this way, I am always unhappy with real life. I can’t fully enjoy life, I can’t experience the real moment I’m living in and I can’t fully appreciate the people around me. I even have a hard time with my relationship with God. This is because I’m wanting every connection with Him to be the best, better than the last, electric, dynamic, life-changing. So, in reality, how often does a human experience those moments with God? Probably only once in a great while. And that’s probably a good thing, because otherwise we’d find it extremely hard to live in this often mundane, everyday kind of world, with all its imperfections.

If I think about it, my way of thinking has been very covetous, to use a Biblical word. I always want something I don’t have, or want to be someone I’m not, or want others to be someone they’re not….and then I live with either a low-grade or high-grade sense of dissatisfaction and fail to see the goodness and grace of what IS.

So with God’s help, I’m trying to find the right balance in my life: not expecting too much and not expecting too little. No perfection, and no nothing. I’m open to starting to see the beauty of God’s goodness and grace in all the regular, day-to-day little happenings. This even reminds me of the many places in Scripture where God’s people were often drawn to their captors (Egyptians, Assyrians and Babylonians) because of the rich, beautiful and exciting things those cultures offered, but at the same time ignoring the quiet waters of the Promised Land which God had given them for their sustenance and pleasure. Like me, the Israelites wanted the exciting wealthy, cool and hip - the happening place and culture of the powerful. They got bored with the gentle, quiet waters of everyday Israel, though that’s where the Lord’s goodness and presence were strongest.

God’s goodness is everywhere. His glory is all over creation; His image is somewhere to be found in all humans, however buried it may be. How much better to allow ourselves to be amazed at His presence day-to-day in the mundane, rather than to be craning our necks for something more, always something more.

Isaiah 8:6 (NLT)
“My care for the people of Judah is like the gently flowing waters of Shiloah, but they have rejected it. They are rejoicing over what will happen to King Rezin and King Pekah.

Psalms 16:11 (NLT)
You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever. 

Matthew 7:9-11 (NLT)
“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.