Hidden Imperfections

It’s not easy being perfect.

At least, that’s what I hear. I wouldn’t know. Perfection is a goal of mine, but I’m having a ridiculously hard time getting there. Turns out I have all these character flaws and shortcomings and blind spots which usually culminate with me flat on my face, wondering what blew up in my face this time. So let’s try this instead:

It’s not easy trying to be perfect.

Maybe you can relate to that, too. Maybe you can’t; maybe you’ve got a handle on this whole “human existence” thing and you’re wondering why everyone else is having such a hard time of it. But I’m willing to bet against it. I’m willing to bet that, like me, you understand all too well the frustrations that come with aiming for a goal that stands in starkest contrast to your very nature.

Some days we do better than other days, but it’s still hard to see what looks like an impossible gap between ourselves and perfection. And if I might be so bold as to make another bet, it would be that the most distressing parts of that gap are the parts only you can see.

IMG_3818Your hidden imperfections. Internal struggles that no one around you can see. Battles of the heart and of the mind; battles you are ashamed to admit even exist because you feel like you should have conquered them by now; battles that fill you with shame because you can only imagine how others would look at you if they knew. These are the battles that make us look at ourselves and wonder, “How am I ever going to make it? If I can’t beat this, how can I ever become who God called me to be?”

Before we go any further, let me stop to clarify something: I’m not about to justify anyone’s sin. I’m not about to say that the ways you and I fall short of God’s standards are somehow acceptable. I’m certainly not going to say that this is just who we are and that makes it alright to stop trying to beat it.

But I am going to say this:

It’s not just you.

I am going to say that you’re in good company—that it was the apostle Paul himself who wrote, “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do” (Romans 7:15). I am going to say that it’s impossible to follow God without eventually coming to terms that part of the very core of your being is blackened with sin—some of it so deeply rooted that you’ll spend the rest of your life trying to tear it out with God’s help.

I am going to say that God doesn’t call perfect people. He calls broken people to become perfect. That’s you and me. We don’t start at the end of that spectrum—we don’t even start in the middle. We start at the very beginning, and we don’t see perfection until the very end of it. We’re not at the end of it, so that means we still have work to do—and that’s okay. We’re expected to still have work to do. That’s how this life thing works. We’re told to “go on to perfection” (Hebrews 6:1), not to “quit making such a fuss and just be perfect already.” It’s a process, and we’re still in the middle of it.

I am going to say that if anyone understands what you’re dealing with, it’s Jesus Christ. “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Causing the Messiah to sin would have meant the derailment of God’s ultimate plan for humanity, so you can be certain that Satan tempted Jesus with a veracity no other human being has ever experienced. So Christ knows. He knows what you’re struggling with and why it’s a struggle. The author of Hebrew continues, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

If my two bets earlier were correct, then there’s a part of yourself that you hate—internal struggles that you loathe because you’re ashamed that they’re still even an issue. I get it. I have those struggles, too. So does everyone who’s ever set out to walk God’s way of life. But here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter how many years we’ve been locked in an exhausting stalemate with these hidden imperfections. They’re beatable. With God, we can and we will beat them.

Christ was tempted, but without sin. Being perfect doesn’t mean the temptation to sin no longer exists—it just means we’re perfectly equipped to resist it. Every step we take on this journey and every second we spend grappling with that darkness in our being brings us that much closer to the perfect character and integrity of our older Brother. We won’t always get it right, but “a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again” (Proverbs 24:16, emphasis added). It can be done.

At the end of his life, it was Paul—Paul, the apostle who agonized over the conflict between what he willed to do and what he hated—it was Paul who wrote with perfect confidence, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Paul made it…and he knew he made it. It wasn’t easy—he struggled and fought with his human nature just as you and I do. But it was doable. He did it. It can be done.

You and I, we can do this.

And with God’s help, we will.

Until next time,

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