There was a time when I thought a lot about what I won’t be like ‘when I get older’. In my younger years I would look at my parents or older people in my church and see all the ways I wouldn’t be like them. In Bible college and seminary I often thought (if no consciously, then subconsciously) about how so many pastors had compromised and failed and how there were no excuses for them being the way they were. I wasn’t going to be like them.
‘When I’m a husband / pastor / father / homeowner / (fill in the blank), I will do it differently…’.
Underlying thoughts like that is a failure, I’ve learned, to recognize the fallenness of the world. There’s a myth being perpetrated by the devil and the world — a myth gladly accepted and amplified by my sin nature — that I, unlike every human, will do it right. It’s a temptation for young people everywhere and it is one of the reasons why I think people wait longer to get married, to settle in a career, to have children, etc. The myth is this: If you look hard enough and wait long enough, you find the perfect spouse. You, unlike your friends, can find the perfect car. The perfect house. The perfect ________.
But here’s the thing: no wife is perfect. No husband is perfect. No house, car, job, or anything else is perfect. It’s all broken. This side of the new creation, everything will fail us and disappoint us.
But quite apart from being a discouragement (though it may sound depressing), I’ve found it to be actually quite freeing. As soon as I realized that it is ‘okay’ for my house to not be perfect, I didn’t need to it justify me any more. When I stop and remember that it’s ‘okay’ for my family to not be perfect, it frees me from comparisons and the desires to compare and compete. For those still looking for a husband / wife, it is freeing to know that no matter how long you wait and how carefully you choose, you’ll still get a fixer-upper of a spouse. That’s life.
What’s been so freeing for me in this is that it gives me the ability to just simply enjoy things for what they are. I can enjoy my wife without worrying about how to ‘fix’ her flaws (which more often than not are my fault anyway). I can enjoy my house without worrying about making it ‘perfect’ (since it will never get there anyway).
Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean that we don’t pray and labour for God’s perfect kingdom to come and to work in this world. It doesn’t mean that we don’t strive to be holy as he is holy. It doesn’t mean that I don’t labour to wash my bride with the pure water of the word (or accept challenges and corrections from her). It doesn’t mean that I don’t work hard to raise my children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. But realizing that the notion perfection of anything this side of glory is a myth is freeing when I feel the pressure to perform or achieve up to a standard I simply can’t attain.
All this also helps me to appreciate my parents and those older in the faith as well. They haven’t attained perfection, and some of the flaws I observed were accurate. But now I understand and feel a little bit more of why they’re not perfect… because I’ve seen it in myself and in my world.
I hope that as I age I continue to find balance between striving for perfection and finding perfect rest in the perfection to come. When I find this balance, I find it enables me to, as someone has said, ‘work like an Arminian and sleep like a Calvinist.’ I like that.
** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **