March 31, 2021
Striving for Perfection
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“… if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” 1 John 4:12b (ESV)
One of my late mother’s favorite stories about me occurred when I was very young and didn’t respond to her calling me.
Because it wasn’t in my nature to ignore her, she became concerned there might be something wrong and eventually sought me out. To her surprise, her curly-topped girl wasn’t making a mess: I was organizing. Humming a happy little tune in my closet, I carefully hung my clothes by color and lined up my shoes in a perfectly neat row.
Intensely focused on the task at hand, I completely tuned out her voice.
Love called, but I was so busy trying to perfect things, I missed it. Maybe you’ve done the same before, wishing the pieces of your life looked a little or a lot different. Longing for your husband or your kids to behave better. Trying to fix this or that a little more so that maybe — just maybe — things would be perfect.
It’s easy to ignore the call of love in our day-to-day. The desire to control situations, people or the stuff around us causes us to miss God’s voice and His call to a better way, where striving ceases and communion flourishes. His love calls us to a place where our souls are satisfied, yet compelled to come back for more, because we’ve tasted and seen that He alone is good. His love offers us the truth that, while life might feel completely out of order, God’s peace can still be found in the middle of the mess.
It’s really no surprise our hearts long for perfection because perfection was God’s original plan and is infused into our DNA. From the moment of creation, Adam and Eve had no imperfections, no need to strive, because they lacked nothing in the garden of Eden. (Genesis 2:25) God was the fullness and complete satisfaction of their very existence.
But after sin entered the scene, flaws became part of their story and ours. And, oh, how far from God’s original intent sin took us! Work became a necessity. Childbirth went from a “walk in the garden” to a “crawl through the trenches.” Perfection was traded for imperfection, causing Adam and Eve to hide from God when He, the Voice and essence of perfect love, called them. (Genesis 3:8-10)
Sin created a chasm between us and God, the Author of perfection. Centuries after Adam and Eve, Jesus bridged that chasm on the cross, filling the gap and offering us salvation so we could access God once again.
The Apostle John’s words remind us of the hope that abiding in Christ brings. John encourages us when he says, “… if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12b).
It’s important to note: John isn’t describing the absence of flaws. As long as we live in a fallen and sinful world, imperfection will exist. But “perfected” in this verse comes from a Greek word, teleioó, which connotes an act of completeness in Christ, an ongoing yet attainable process of becoming more like Him.
Although we may still miss the mark, when we surrender to the Voice of love, our God-designed perfection is reengaged. This way of living brings a fullness we won’t find in striving to make things in our life “just so.” And there is no greater accomplishment we will ever attain than living out a life of love.
At the conclusion of life, I doubt anyone who knew me will brag about my organization skills. It won’t matter if my house was spotless or if my closet was color-coded. My human efforts to attain perfection will continually fall short, but obeying the call to love with Christ’s love through us? That will bring you and me closer to His original design. And love like that will always be the perfect aim.
Father, forgive me for the times I’ve placed more importance on striving to be perfect than listening to Your call of love. I place all of my realistic and unrealistic expectations at Your feet. Thank You for the privilege of abiding in You so that Your love for me and others might grow. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Colossians 3:14, “Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” (NASB 1995)
Psalm 18:30, “As for God, his way is perfect: The LORD’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.” (NIV)
In the moments when we wonder, “How do I get through this?” it’s easy to want to turn back, give up or walk away. The Israelites had these same feelings of hopelessness in the book of Exodus as they were enslaved in Egypt and were led into the wilderness. But God reveals a better way to get to the other side — a way that tests our faith and requires our trust but ultimately brings us through the wilderness and into the promised land where God’s best awaits us. Join us for our next First 5 study on Exodus: How Do I Get Through This? Pressing On When You Want To Turn Back, Give Up or Walk Away. Order your Study Guide today!
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Identify a relationship or area in your life you’re striving to make “perfect.” Choose to surrender that person or situation to God, thanking Him for the freedom to love others and yourself without requiring unattainable human perfection.
We’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments.
© 2021 by Jenny Wheeler. All rights reserved.