The Pursuit of Perfection

What do you suppose His will is, daughters? That we should be altogether perfect, and be one with Him and with the Father, as in His Majesty’s prayer. Consider what a long way we are from attaining this. I assure you that it causes me real distress to write in this way because I know how far I am from it myself, and entirely through my own fault. (Teresa of Avila: Fifth Mansions: Chapter Three)

You cannot play with the animal in you without becoming wholly animal, play with falsehood without forfeiting your right to truth, play with cruelty without losing your sensitivity of mind. He who wants to keep his garden tidy doesn’t reserve a plot for weeds. (Dag Hammarskjold: Markings)

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48

The pursuit of perfection may seem absurd. Yet, there is a certain logic to it. Each day we make make one of two choices: We intend to align ourselves with God’s will (i.e. pursue perfection) or we “reserve a plot for weeds”. In that sense, perfection is not an outcome, but rather an approach to life in which we plan to live “perfectly” as a disciple of Jesus. But to effectively apply this we need to understand the difference between the “pursuit of perfection” and “debilitating perfectionism”.

In his book, Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball, George Will has an insightful chapter title: Orel Hershiser In the Future Perfect Tense. Will writes, “Pitching, like politics and marriage and other difficult undertakings, illustrates the axiom that ‘the perfect is the enemy of the good.’ Which means: In the real world, be ready to settle for something short of everything. ‘There are pitchers,’ Rick Dempsey says, ‘who, when you score a run off them, you can see you’ve ruined their perfect day and they lose their competitive edge. Then the dam breaks and they give up six, seven runs.’ Does Hershiser go to the mound in the first inning planning to pitch a complete game? ‘A perfect game,’ Hershiser replies. ‘If they get a hit, then I am throwing a one-hitter. If they get a walk, it’s my last walk. I deal with perfection to the point that it is logical to conceive it. History is history, the future is perfect.’  (George Will: Men at Work)

God’s will is that “we should be altogether perfect”. Unfortunately, like Teresa, we are painfully aware of how far we are from reaching this goal — “and entirely through my own fault”. But past failures doesn’t mean we should embrace mediocrity as a way of life, instead, we envision and pursue perfection from this moment forward. Tomorrow we do the same thing. And the next day. And the next.

How about you? Do you intend to live in the “Future Perfect Tense” or have you reserved a “plot for weeds”?

Jesus Follower, Blogger, Public Speaker.

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Posted in 5th Mansions - Chapter 3

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