By Jeanie Miley
My favorite movies of this season have left me with unresolved and unanswerable questions. Each of them had characters who endured unfulfilled dreams, unrequited love and the challenge of imperfection and incompletion that is so like … well, life.
Being entertained by a movie is fun, but I really like being challenged to think thoughts I’ve never thought before. I love to be provoked to explore paradox and irony. I like wrestling with unimagined possibilities, even when I am pushed out of my comfort zone and asked to accept and embrace life as it really is, imperfections and all.
The imperfections of life in the movies remind me of a plaque I saw during the weeks when I was trying to create the perfect Christmas for my family.
“Embrace Imperfection,” the plaque says. And all this time, I thought imperfections were to be confessed, repaired, ignored or hidden!
It would never have occurred to me to embrace imperfection, for I was brought up on the serious admonition to “be perfect,” missing the point that the meaning of “perfection” had a whole lot more to do with being whole and healthy than following rules and regulations.
As a major Queen of Self-Improvement Projects, I lived a lot of years under the misperception that I could and should be perfect, if only I tried hard enough. I put myself through a lot of stress and unnecessary unhappiness, working myself over in first one way and then another, in an attempt to reach the goal of perfection, a goal that became more and more elusive with each stage of my life.
Often, the perfection so many of us pursue is more about external appearance than an internal state of grace. Ironically, the striving for perfection itself often creates imperfection, brokenness, hypocrisy and distortion. The obsession with perfection, which cannot be attained, often sabotages excellence, which is possible!
I am convinced God is right in the middle of my imperfections, attempting to work for good. God is present in the inadequacies and insufficiencies, the growing edges, the broken places, the addictions, the character defects and the wounds. He is at work in that part of myself that I want to hide, even from myself. He is in the places that cause me shame and guilt, attempting to bring what is dark out into the light, not to embarrass and expose me, but to make me whole.
And so it is that I am launching out into this new year with the plan to discover what on earth it means to embrace imperfection instead of hiding it and denying it. I’m going to launch out into the deep and accept those things I’ve been trying to fix and repair that I cannot, with all of my resources, do anything about.
I’m going to start this year with my mind and heart open to see what God might want to do with what I have disowned and discounted.
The truth is that I don’t have to get all fixed up to make God love me. There’s nothing I can do to keep God from loving me, but, thankfully, I don’t have to earn his love, either. All I have to do, one day at a time, is come to the Healer, just as I am. And just as I am really is the only way I can come, after all.
That, for me, is Good News for this new year.
Jeanie Miley is an author and columnist and a retreat and workshop leader. She is married to Martus Miley, pastor of River Oaks Baptist Church in Houston, and they have 3 adult daughters.