Thanksgiving 2015 - Thoughts on Perfection
Thanksgiving Thoughts: on Perfection.
(kind of some melancholy thoughts so to lighten things up, enjoy the picture...the ending, though, is a happier conclusion!)
To define the term: I think by Perfection I mean my quest for things beautiful,
things true, things good, things kind, things pure. And to not only
know those things but to embody them too, to be beautiful in spirit
and life and home, to know truth and walk in it, to know good and do
it, and to be kind and forgiving and understanding of others
different from me, and to have a pure heart with pure motives and
actions. Maybe not everyone is motivated to seek these things, but for me I do think that has been my underlying motivation in life.
Finally, brothers and
sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything
is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8
A lifelong quest: In my quest for things beautiful, true, good, kind, and pure there
have been people and families I have met and admired over the years
for their choices, their discipline, and how they lived out their
lives. They seemed beautiful, good and kind and also seemed to be
walking in sublime truth. I felt a bit inferior around them
honestly, but respected them greatly. I asked them questions and
tried to learn from them.
But in some of these people, as time has gone by, there have
surfaced some very sad, wrong, not good, ugly things in their lives. As I have tried to make sense of it all, I have wanted to write a number
of times, but just couldn't quite get any thoughts together to know what to say. But I think I finally have something to write...yet I want to speak vaguely and in the form of ideas or
principles, not to cite specific people or stories, because that is really not the point of my writing. My point
is to share thoughts on this weary foreigner's journey on this
planet, as I personally am trying to understand a bit better how to
live my life. You might think it is crazy that at 55, I am still growing in my understanding of that!
The journey: I first fully understood the gospel of Jesus Christ at age 19. I am
now 55. That's 36 years of wayfarer lessons about the true Kingdom
which is not here on this earth. But this earth is all we know. I
thought I had things figured out many times before now, in my 20s,
30s, and even 40s, as I was seeking to always be learning and
growing and enlarging and improving my understanding of and living
out of the gospel. Please understand I am not at all wondering about
the big, beautiful, true, good, kind reality of the gospel revealed
in the life, death and resurrection of our Savior, but just the
of it. The older I get, the more I can see some things from 'both sides now' in some ways. And I can see every
'side' has its inherent issues.
In the midst of my journey I am so grateful to God that my dear
family has been a source of strength and joy. My dear husband embodies
love to me, he is a wonderment to me amidst the changing tides of
life over so many years - and my children to me are another large
sweetness, each, including those whom they have married, have
enlarged my life in many beautiful ways...and they have taught me so
many things as I have sought to embrace their uniquenesses and
understand life from their sometimes differing viewpoints.
My first born Josh has such a knack for clear thinking, strong
decision making and problem solving; he works incredibly hard and has a
desire to serve and help others solve problems too. Nothing is too
hard or too complicated for him! Josh's wife Kerin is beautiful in her skills in managing and caring
for her family and at times carries heavy burdens for others as they have been through hardships; she has helped
them make a way back to joy, at times even sacrificing her health and
her own joy in the process.
Aaron has a kindness to him as well
as a mind that can be like a laser beam nailing some big truth and
can easily make logical sense of complex ideas. His love and service
and forgiving heart of grace has always blessed me and I am sure it
blesses his family too. And Aaron's wife Christina is such an
energetic, cheerful, charming, encouraging, delightful, positive
soul who I can't imagine life without! She is so much that I am not,
and I value her input and support in so many ways.
Sarah makes a grid of possibilities and
choices from things I am pondering if I bring them to her, and helps
me hone in on a decision more clearly sometimes. She stretches me
and definitely has taught me to think further than I would without
Dan really loves knowing and doing 'the right thing' and says
the most profound things at times...recently as we were listening to
a sermon about Jacob, at the very beginning he looked over at me and
said, 'the deceiver is deceived' which ended up being one of the
main ideas of the sermon and Dan summed it up before even hearing
After the liberating and profound truth of the gospel message,
nothing can really compare to the sweetness these people are to me
in the long persevering haul of a lifetime together, and I am so
grateful for each one. And of course, the grandchildren! But I will save my thoughts on them until our Christmas letter. :)
But back to this idea of seeking perfection...
Talking to my daughter about this, she said, "Mom, sometimes I think
people idolize goodness." What? How can trying so hard to be good,
and to do the right things be bad? Well, she said, it can lead to a
sense of entitlement and pridefulness and looking down on
others if you succeed at 'goodness' and a lot of guilt
if you don't measure up. The sense of entitlement for all your
goodness can lead you to think you deserve to be blessed, and if you
are not blessed in the ways you think you should be, then sometimes individuals decide
it all doesn't matter which can lead to indulging in all sorts of
harmful behavior. Or if guilt is the issue, and the guilt doesn't
lead to repentance but begins to control you, then a whole lot of
self destructive behaviors can also enter in. And if we only ever
did what we were told was right, and didn't ever learn to think for
ourselves, then sometimes individuals rise up in bitterness and act
out in destructive ways if they believe they have been led in error,
or were somehow robbed of Christian freedom to make their own
Oh love that will not let me go -
Could that be at least part of what goes on sometimes in these
situations? I don't know. But maybe. All I know is that if these
families' motivations were simply to know and do 'the right thing,' it
all just seems so heartbreaking for all involved!
A snare in seeking perfection? Can a snare in this be like the snare of the Pharisees? They
were the righteous people of their time. They did all the right
things. They looked right. They acted right. Goodness. Truth.
Virtue. But Jesus said they were as white washed tombs.
Beautiful and clean on the outside, but filled with decay
inside. But yet my confusion, my dilemma: does beautiful on the
outside always have to be paired with or indicate decay
inside??? Is it wrong to try for these things? To try to live a
life above reproach??? I don't think so, it can't be!!
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! - Romans 6:1-2
...knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. - Romans 6:6-7
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! - Romans 6:15
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.- Gal. 5:6
goes wrong sometimes with our beautiful, wonderful 'stars in our
eyes' dreams of goodness and beauty? I can't really say; I am
sure each case is different. But it is so sad to me and I grieve with and for
these people!!! But I know that I want to be clean
on the outside and the inside, too
!! Does being clean on
the outside somehow get in the way of being clean on the inside?
Maybe if the sequence is wrong... Maybe if we think being clean
on the outside is enough. Maybe if we think being clean on the
outside earns us something eternal. Maybe we need to start
by making sure we are clean on the inside, and let the
inside transform the outside.
How?? Only by the blood of
Jesus. Can I, on my own, cleanse myself from my own internal sin
that clings to me? Will cleaning the outside do anything to
clean the inside? No, not really. It becomes a 'form' of godliness without its true substance. (Although I do think there are seasons that we can benefit from austerity and quieting the noise in our lives to help us get in touch with God and hear His voice.) But ultimately, what do we need? Brand new clean, grateful
Maybe gratefulness and humbleness comes..."when we stop blaming others for ours
or their imperfections and rise above to recognize that out of
every imperfection comes strength, growth, determination,
humility and the knowledge that everyone can use a little
grace." - (Julia Roberts?)
Conclusion: In my life, today, I must remember to walk humbly with God. And ultimately I must continue to move forward in my own life, walking daily in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit who can enable me to seek and live the goodness, truth, kindness, purity
and beauty of Christ, as I live out the gospel in my life. That is still what I want to be and do.
And in all of this, I must remember that Perfection is only
fully embodied by
our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He is what Perfection looks
Let us remember to not confuse doing
good and being good on our own strength and merit with the Power
the indwelling Holy Spirit can bring to our lives! May we all
keep clean on the inside first, by daily walking in recognition of sin
and repentance, and allow that cleansing to transform our outsides.
God's hand is always at work with his people - teaching,
refining and making beauty of our lives. It really is never about
having 'perfect' circumstances or 'being' perfect, it is always about
falling down, repenting and getting up and doing the next right thing.
If it all depends on us we are in big trouble. No one is perfect, no
life is perfect, so if that is the requirement for us to be happy or to
make others happy, it will never be in this life, short of the gospel.
And God is in all the hard things and through it all creating what He
wants in us. So in my pondering I might actually be inadvertently
communicating a wrong idea of 'what went wrong'...as if there is some
formula to fix it.
Maybe the big thing is not to be surprised that we
are all sinners, none escapes! Problems are everywhere, not just in
families who try to 'be good.' So I don't really think these families
necessarily did anything 'wrong,' in terms of trying their best to do
what they thought was best! Thinking that would be the other side of the
snare of 'works,' wouldn't it?
The 'wrong' is the choice if the
individual within the structure, whether that structure is the
difficulty of living as a Jew in Nazi Germany or living as a person of
posh royalty in the middle ages, or being a parent or student in a family. The 'wrong' is what is wrong with all
of us, each individual is a sinner with a choice to make to follow
Christ, followed by more choices every day to walk with Him. So I hope
this doesn't come across like I
am trying to find a new 'right' way!
That 'way' is always the same, it is
the Gospel lived out every day, whether you are a parent or child, teen
or adult. The whole thing makes much more sense in the light of that
This Thanksgiving, may our gratefulness well up to Him
as we praise Him and thank Him for loving us, sacrificing for us
so we can have a way to face the Perfection that dwells in the
Godhead. Because of Him, we will be one day united with Him and
dwell with Him forever!!
I will end with the following verse and some links to two wonderful hymns.
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus
whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you,
according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with
might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in
your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in
be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the
width and length and depth and height to
know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be
filled with all the fullness of God.
Westminster men's chorus - 2 versions, the first has an incredible acoustic!!
Be Thou my Vision -
- O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
- O light that foll’west all my way,
I yield my flick’ring torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.
- O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.
- O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.
classical cellist and piano instrumental
an hour of relaxing hymns on the piano
Much love and much, much gratefulness and thankfulness to all, Linda for the Bealls
Many thanks to Susan Schmidt Photography for the wonderful photos!