|Maria Soto Robbins|
I try and try and try to get things right...just right...perfect. And I fail.
Boy, do I fail.
I think some of us are just genetically wired this way, and it serves some people well (Martha Stewart, are you reading this?) I also think that circumstances support this type of behavior. For me, I was pretty convinced, when I was in high school, that if I was perfect, my parents would be content, happy and stress-free. I was going to try my darndest to make that happen, and thus was born a raging perfectionist.
I've gotten better. Really. God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, gave me five wildly imperfect kids to balance things out. I still get really uptight sometimes, and the kids still are messy and forgetful, but we're a happy lot, most of the time.
However, Matthew 5:48 has always puzzled me: So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. This comes at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Christ's incredible gift to us as to how we're to live as Christians. This verse, though, is like a call to arms for us perfectionists: I've got to be just as perfect as God. Jesus says so. It seems like a confirmation of my unhealthy tendencies and my most annoying traits.
What is Christ telling us here? No one can possibly be perfect, so is Christ just setting us up for failure? That can't be it. Consider what Fr. Ray Ryland says:
Consider the word we translate "perfect." In Greek, teleios does not refer to abstract or metaphysical perfection. It is a functional term. To be perfect a thing must realize fully the purpose for which it has been produced.
"You must be perfect" means each of us must strive to develop his unique potential, under God, to the fullest possible extent. These words are both command and promise. The imperative is laid upon us who follow Christ, but we know that only the grace of God can bring about this process of sanctification.
Imagine my relief: I don't have to be perfect, I just have to be me. "Me" in the best, most holiest sense, but "me" nonetheless. Of course, St. Paul figured this out as well (I wonder if he was a recovering perfectionist?):
My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
Weakness I have, in abundance. And my only hope, as a recovering perfectionist, is that I will be made perfect in that weakness, given Christ's grace. And I will be most content with that.