Be Ye Perfect…

Take a good look at this picture.
What do you see?
No … really … what do you see?
If you said,
“Why, that’s a ferris wheel!
Anyone can see that – it’s clear as day,”
then … BUZZ … wrong answer.

It’s not a ferris wheel.
At least, not yet.
It’s a pair of round metallic pieces held together
by spokes and held up by some funky pink braces.
But it’s not a ferris wheel.
Because it doesn’t have any seats, silly.

I saw this while making a left hand turn 
across a busy intersection, 
attempting to get into the freeway access lane 
and getting stopped by a red light.
I whipped out my small point-and-shoot 
and tried to take 
a picture of it 
(through about six car windows),
 because I was so astonished to see
this incomplete,

But in reality, I have no idea if it was imperfect or not.
I can only say with certainty that it was incomplete.

It’s taken me most of my life to understand 
that when Jesus told all those folks 
gathered on the mount that 
they were to be
 “perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect…,”
he wasn’t laying the weight of perfectionism
on them or on us.
He was using the term ‘perfect’ to mean 
something different from 
what we usually understand that word to mean.
Not so much flawless,
as complete,
fulfilled –
in the sense of fulfilling God’s design for us
as human creatures.

I have lived far too much of my life 
worrying about the details that create 
at least the appearance of perfection –
the perfect outfit,
the perfect parenting technique,
the perfect state of cleanliness and neatness in my home,
the perfect ability to communicate what I want to say,
whether in a conversation,
a relationship,
or a sermon.

And all that worrying,
all that angst,
all that smoothing out the wrinkles
(both figuratively and literally!)
robbed me,
and robbed others,
and basically robbed God
of the things I could have been/done/said/thought
that would have moved me towards

Part of it, of course, was being a first-born child.
And part of it was being born female.
But a whole lot of it was a combination of
wrongheaded teaching,
limited understanding of the true nature of the gospel,
and an internalized message that was both
false and destructive.

And I am sorry about that; 
I’m sorry for all the time and energy 
that went into trying too hard 
to be all things to all people,
to keep everyone else in the world convinced
that I was the hardest-working,
most loyal,
most devoted and caring person they had ever met.

And I wish I had been:
more relaxed in my parenting,
more able to accept personality flaws in
myself and others,
more willing to take risks,
less afraid of failure,
more aware of the need to care for myself
in terms of health, fitness, solitude,
and just plain, old-fashioned
‘dinking’ around.

I’ve come to believe that dinking around is
 one of the profoundest spiritual experiences 
any of us can ever have.
Just looking with eyes that take the time to observe;
just listening with ears that take the time to
really, deeply listen;
just being fully and earnestly present to whatever and whoever is around me.

Slowly, s-l-o-w-l-y, I am learning.
It involves breathing in and breathing out.
It involves saying the Jesus prayer a lot,
sometimes almost non-stop.
It involves periods of deep contrition
for my impatience with the process,
my impatience with others 
who are learning these lessons
 differently than I am,
my impatience with myself.

It involves a growing conviction
that much of what I thought was 
and valuable
and real
in this life we live is really 
and ephemeral
and unnecessary.
This little girl we get to watch every Wednesday,
with her wild and crazy hair
and delight at the world around her;
her 5-year-old sister,
with her funny faces, incredible vocabulary,
and a new gap in her mouth where a tooth used to be;
these six fine grandsons, 
with their wide-ranging interests,
their good hearts,
their sense of fun and camaraderie;
this husband, 
who has survived two life-threatening illnesses
and still makes me laugh and loves me,
warts and all;
these walks on the beach
or around my yard,
that fill my soul with light;
these friends, who have traveled with me,
many of them for decades;

these words, written by so many talented,
insightful, deeply funny and wise women and men;

these dear ones who come and sit in
my office and who listen with me
for the movement of the Spirit
in their lives —
these gifts of grace and goodness
from a graceful and good God –
these, these are what are
true and valuable and real.

Glory be and hallelujah
that I’m not perfect,
but I am moving in the direction

Submitted tonight at Bonnie’s place:


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  1. So my first thought was the wheel on a boat! BUZZ!

    I often think of myself as a perfectionist–but far from perfect. And the scourge of perfectionism is that it can lead to procrastination. And not in the good sense of dinking around.

    So I’m going to dink around more, procrastinate less, loosen up, and drink in every moment.

  2. LOVED your photos! They add such a sense of peace and tranquillity!