I read a book a couple weeks ago that I loved, where the author wrote that someone had once called her an “imperfectionist”. The word hit me like having the wind knocked out, stopping me in my tracks- because I function so completely opposite of that. “Strive” feels more like a mantra than a verb to me, a necessary vocabulary word to get through a typical Monday-Friday.
Work more. Do more. Earn more.
A life completely occupied with more.
It is funny to me that He says the one who will lose his life will find it, because when I look around, that’s not the message I see written in the sky. The message seems to be more “She who balances every impossible thing, who can juggle and dance and sing on the praise team while writing a book, being a faithful wife, and raising amazing God-loving children will find her life.” (I just re-read that sentence and laugh-cried at it. Because it reads so ridiculous and yet feels so TRUE.)
That word I mentioned, “strive,” has been sitting on me as a heaviness in my chest since I first ran into it a few weeks ago. I was sitting at work when I picked up a book, Walking with God by John Eldredge. I opened it and went to the first chapter (no matter the book, I always skip the introduction- it drives my husband crazy), and read this, a confession from Eldredge’s journal:
“Pushing, pushing, always pushing.
This pushing is such a way of life for me, I barely know how to live otherwise. I’m always working on something. Trying to make life better for me or for someone else. It feels like I heave myself at life. Always looking for some way to improve things.”
I started crying right there in front of my computer, sitting at my desk. Where he wrote pushing, I read striving, and the words melted me with their truth. I wiped the tears and closed the book, realizing that I couldn’t read it at work, because tears are mildly inappropriate office behavior, even at a Christian non-profit. So I put the book in my bag, noting the moment, and swore that I would come back to it.
I read a couple years ago about a Japanese tradition called “Kintsukuroi”, a practice of taking plates, bowls, or pottery that have been cracked and repairing them. But instead of attempting to glue them back together using invisible, clear-dry glue with the hopes that the brokenness never has to be noticed, lacquer is mixed with powdered gold. The result is a plate with a line of shimmery gold through it. Brokenness seen, celebrated, and made beautiful.
Being an “imperfectionist” is this exact idea- seeing the brokenness, and celebrating that in Christ, all things are made beautiful. Facing mistakes instead of running from them, pointing to my shortcomings with the assurance of Jesus standing behind my back, and nodding me forward in encouragement. “It’s okay,” he whispers over my shoulder as my finger shakes, “Let the mess be seen.”
This requires two huge decisions on my part: firstly, a massive trust in the power of Christ. I need to really hear and believe that the full work of the cross leads me to grace upon grace, and that I will have oceans of mistakes that will continue to be filled with the color of precious metals ahead of me.
Second, it requires a deep breath out, letting go of the perfectionist ideas I cling so tightly to, letting go of trying to get through this world by winning whatever game I think I am in the middle of playing.
This week is Holy Week, and it is a fitting week to be celebrating the imperfections, because if I didn’t have them, Christ dying on the cross would mean absolutely nothing to me. It is shortcomings and failures that make this week so personal.
Each day this week has led me to a different part of the final days leading up to the resurrection in scripture, and today, it was the cross, and I am struck again by the way scripture relates the events immediately following his death:
51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
There is an earthquake, dead people are raised, and the veil, which was regarded with a standard of perfection and holiness higher than I ever could hope to achieve in life, was ripped from top to bottom. An imperfection incapable of being ignored, yet the exact imperfection that I stake my life on: God became personally accessible to all, able to redeem anyone, anything.
God made himself, in his perfection, the Ultimate Imperfectionist, choosing to redeem the brokenness of my soul, covering those cracks with the beauty of His sacrifice.