There came a day when I just couldn’t handle the pressure of looking perfect anymore. I couldn’t keep prepping a dirty house to make it look clean every time I invited Jesus over for dinner. I couldn’t keep sewing a beautifully patterned piece of fabric over the rips and holes of my worn out sweaters; I was running out of fabric. I couldn’t keep pouring new wine into my old wineskins; my wineskins kept bursting. I knew deep down I could truly never be perfect, but the idea of fault scared me so I would continue to tidy up, walk proudly, and do what I was told. The day came, however, that reality hit me in the face: perfection was never in my reach because it hadn’t hit my heart. This day came when I already knew Jesus, just not well enough.
I was currently in the midst of running a one man show. We had to create a music video in theatre as our final exam grade. It would pull a lot of weight in our final average grade whether that being towards our favor or away from it. It was five days before the due date, and my group still had filming to do. Naturally, I was stressed out-REALLY stressed out... to the point of tears, 2 am wake up calls from my brain, and frustration towards people who didn’t even have anything to do with this project. But I wouldn’t admit it. I was worried and Jesus told us not to be, so there was still a smile on my face as far as the public was concerned.
We were supposed to film that Saturday (the video was due Wednesday), but a very much needed actress in the group project texted me that morning and said she could not film. She had a 102 degree fever and her parents wouldn’t allow her to meet with us even if she did want to suck it up and shoot for the video. I almost couldn’t handle this news. I know. It’s just a high school group project that wouldn’t mean anything in 5 years, but I am a perfectionist when it comes to my work. I needed this video to be good.
I told her something along the lines of this: “We are still filming today whether you are there or not. We will film tomorrow also. I will try to make it look like you were there when I edit the video. I truly do understand. I’m just stressed out. Feel better.”
It was far from showing the compassion of Christ especially to someone who couldn’t help getting a 102 degree fever on the day we needed her most, but like I said, I was stressed out. I am also an overthinker. The thought of failing my theatre final haunted me. Although, the idea of not getting into college all because of an F on a theatre final sounds absurd, I had the idea, so I cried. I cried and cried and cried thinking about sending my final transcript to the college of my choice with a big fat F next to Advanced Theatre III of all things.
As I usually do when I am overwhelmed, I turned to God. I decided to stop a minute and just read His word. I know He always blesses the time we choose to spend with Him, and I sure needed some blessings. I prayed the same prayer I do every time before reading, “Father allow me to just focus on you. Make me more like you. Let these messages reach my heart and change my life.” But before I said amen, I said, “Tell me what I need to hear.” Amen.
I was, at the time, reading Matthew right around the part where Jesus gives his famous sermon on the mount. I had read this before, so I thought I knew what to expect. Soon enough there would be a whole passage telling me to not worry. “You do not add anymore days to your life by worrying.” However, that is in chapter 6 and I was still on chapter 5.
I began to see words, but not really read them. I began to hear, but not really listen to what God had to say. My mind was elsewhere on the horrific thought of an unfinished project. Then the words appeared on the page. They were words I had let slide past me every time I read them. They were the words I prayed for when I asked God to tell me what I needed to hear. Matthew 5:48 says, “You must be perfect, just as your father in heaven is perfect.”
If I would’ve had any sort of beverage in my mouth at that time, I would for sure spit it out across the room in disbelief of what God’s word said.
What had always comforted me about my relationship with God was knowing that I didn’t have to be perfect for Him because His Son already was and is and is to come. But now there are these words that seem as though they contradict other parts of the Bible. God knows we would never be perfect so why would He have His Son, Jesus, give us a command that cannot be obeyed?
The verse is written after a how-to Jesus gives on love. It says to love our neighbors and our enemies. It said to bless and pray for and give to and love those who hurt us, curse us, and hate us. He said we must do this because there is nothing special about someone who only loves those who love him. This was nothing new to me, and I guess that’s why I skimmed it over so quickly. However, when the perfect verse slapped me in the face and I was forced to rewind, something jumped out at me. “So that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven,” Jesus said in Matthew 5:45. (Read that verse slowly again so you don’t miss it)
Becoming God’s child sets us apart from the rest of the world. However, what makes God’s children actually different from the rest of the world?
When I read Matthew 5:45, it made me feel like I had a name to uphold. God is my Father, I am His daughter, and there is much worth in that. It made me feel different, like royalty. And God’s standards for royalty are much different from the world’s. God said to love those who hurt you, to make yourself the least of these, to give yourself to others, and to offer grace freely. That is what a child of God looks like which is much different than the way the world looks. But it is still not what makes God’s children different from the rest of the world.
What makes God’s children different from the rest of the world is Jesus. Jesus makes us who we are.
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins,” from 1 John 4:10.
When Christ comes into your heart, He shows you a love you have never known before. It’s different because what He did so long ago for you was done while you were still sinning. It brings your heart this overwhelming sense of joy. It cracks open and Jesus shines His light, His perfect light, and makes you also 100% perfect, without fault. That is why His command to “be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect” is not at all impossible to obey. The command doesn’t come from a place of our own ability, but it points back to the One who did it all for us: Jesus. So I was right, we do not have to be perfect because Jesus was and is and is to come, but the Good News is not just that Jesus is perfect, but that He makes us perfect too.
We were made perfect by His love, and in that sense we should love perfectly. The image of a child of God I mentioned earlier who loves those who hurt them, makes themselves the least of these, gives themselves to others, and offers grace freely is Jesus Himself, and we were made in His image. This does not mean that we do not sin, we are only human. It just means that we are made perfect and perfectly only by the grace of our Father, not by anything that we do.
This gives me so much hope. I, the perfectionist, had wasted so much time on perfecting the wrong things. I had an image I had to keep cleaning up and updating forgetting about the perfect image Jesus has been trying to give me for so long. My image was something seen with the eye, but His image could change me from the inside out. My image was a few new patches sewn on an old raggedy sweater, but His was a brand new winter coat that kept me warm all the while.
I still have a hard time letting the idea of perfection go in areas that don’t really matter and that especially hinder other areas worth perfecting. I remember being so worried about the perfection of our music video, I pushed Jesus’ perfect love right out the cracks of my heart when I heard about the girls 102 degree fever. But the most beautiful thing about Jesus is His love for us even when we are wrong. That is why He lead me to that convicting verse. He loved me enough to not leave me where I was but to take me to exactly where He always will be.
“In this way, love has been perfected among us, so that we may have confidence on the day of judgment; for in this world we are just like Him,” from 1 John 4:17.
Trust Jesus’ perfect love and allow it to change you from the inside out. Listen to His voice. Sometimes it is merely a whisper. Love others even if they hurt you because it is done. Forgive freely because it is done. Have peace because it is done. Do not worry because it is done. Give because it is done. There is no “to-do” to be perfect, only it is done, and from that we can be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect. He loves you sooooo much. Let that be your will to do the impossible and be perfect.