Journey Home: Perfect, Excellent, and a Piece of _

Brené Brown shares the story often that when she started her blog, a reader wrote to her and said that everything that she was doing was great, and if she ever researched and wrote about perfectionism, she would be all over that. Brené made the comment that perfectionism is all about shame.

The wife of a friend struggles with perfectionism. I admire her for her bravery, as she is open about it, and she also is letting the Lord handle it in His timing. That translates into that she is not trying to appear perfect by trying to control her perfectionism. And it drives me nuts. And that is because I share the the same tendency to want to be perfect. And the same level of shame. For me being perfect means to be noticed, and to be loved. And if I am not noticed or loved, then the fault must be with me.

At least that was my thinking from childhood. I am not blaming my parents for lack of attention. I remember love and attention, and help with school projects. I just say that when I look back. This line of thinking has been with me for a long time.

It occurred to me to question how we use the word “perfect”, and how the bible uses the word “perfect”. The King James translation seems to hold the record for the number of times the english word “perfect” is use, with 99 times. The New King James version is 61, with NIV, ESV, NASB, and NLT all in the 40s and 30s.

The place that “perfect” first caught my attention, was in 1 Jn 4:18. It uses both “perfect” and “perfected”

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (ESV)

I have to say, that I never focused on the perfected side of 1 Jn 4:18 before tonight as I was writing. And, with the Blue Letter Bible, I see that the same Greek word is used in 1 Jn 4:12, and 1 Jn 4:17 as well as many other places.

BLB says that it carry’s with it “to carry through completely, to accomplish, finish, bring to an end” One commentary that I read a long time ago translated 1 Jn 4:18 as “love which has run its course …” for the perfect side of the verse. For perfected, it is similar and BLB says “to complete / add what is yet wanting in order to render a thing full”

All of this begs the question of what is full, complete, and by implication, what is wanting. I have found that I have a different view than God. I have been religious, like the pharisees. I was a part of religion for a long time. Some things that are familiar, seem right, and one of those things is perfection. Matt 23:23-24 has Jesus giving the pharisees a tongue lashing in the way that they tithed. They liked things that they could measure mint and dill and cummin, rather than justice and mercy and faithfulness. I have to say, that when I am doing things alone (without God), I can really screw up things like justice and mercy and faithfulness. Sometimes my justice is “eye for an eye” type, but Jesus talks about that in Matt 5:38-42

“You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ 39 But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41 Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.”

The problem is, without Him, I will turn this into as much of a measurable rule, as the tithing.

So, I am asking God, is perfection one of those things that if we seek it without Him, we will end up far from it? And if we are with Him, is perfection a slam dunk, but may look all sorts of different ways. Being perfectly candid, He hasn’t told me yet. And if He did, it would probably not be as good for me to tell you, as it would be for Him to put it into terms that you can relate to.

This morning, when Zooming with other men to pray. I said that I think that excellence is similar to perfection. I have some ideas, but I think that they are wrong when I try to judge, and when I am with Him, everything seems to end up excellent. Looking more carefully at the Greek words behind “excellent” on BLB, I find different words. The older I get the less I rely on the Greek and Hebrew words, because I am not a scholar. And God wants children who are scholars, and He also wants a whole lot of other children. Still, I look because I am curious. (I know that there are some blogs on The Gospel Coalition website that seem to say that I shouldn’t look at the Greek. But, I had a pastor who thought they were the nuts and kept posting things by various authors on their website, and honestly, they tickled my head a little, but didn’t move my heart.)

I didn’t intend to go here. But I went to The Gospel Coalition website to see the people who seemed to advise people to not to look at the original languages. I didn’t find the article that I was looking for, but I found some like it. I have to say that I felt hurt. But what I learned through the Mankind Project was that this is my stuff not theirs.

The Mankind Project is a new age organization that initiates men in a lot of good ways, the chief among them is that they honor truth. They just don’t know He who is Truth. I went through their initiation, training, and I group when I was a Christian, and Jesus proved faithful to me in that, Holy Spirit guiding me all the way. In I groups, we are taught to look at ourselves with truth. They are also places of fellowship.

But what amazed me was at the beginning of each meeting, after setting the place aside as sacred space was to offer a time for a “clearing”. The essence of the clearing was that if any man had anything against any other man, they needed to do a clearing before the meeting progressed. It was anything. Man that was good. You faced the other man. Either or both people could request support. And you said exactly what the other man had done, and how it made you feel. Then you took that feeling and traced it back, and owned it. The other man was free. In a lot of ways, he had been God’s instrument in surfacing an old wound for healing. It would have been so powerful to invite the Great Physician in at that moment, but I didn’t think of it. It would also have been great for the person who was the instrument of God could own any sin against the other, but that was not part of the protocol. It is sad that the Christian men’s movement never got to that level of honesty.

So all of my issues with The Gospel Coalition and my former pastor are mine. They come from when barriers were put up where I couldn’t get to what I desired. I have repented of my anger, and of my desire to blame. I know that there are millions of people who have relationships with God deeper than the authors that write there. Intellect and understanding can reinforce intimacy with God, but are not required. Indeed, God has made foolish this wisdom of this world (1 Cor 1:26-29 ). I need to remember a lot the things from

Seminary training, has as its root wisdom that retreating into study, and listening to those who have studied more is a good path. In the middle ages, they thought the same of wizardry and alchemy. They have very precise words to describe, and maybe hide in. It is profoundly sad when they hide in words and in their learning. Ecclesiastes (12:12) has some warnings about the things that they engage in. I know all this because I have not heeded their warnings. Dan Allender and Tremper Longman III, both PhDs, have a wonderful book about the idols of our hearts, and draws from the book of Ecclesiastes, but puts it in words that the common man can understand. It was originally published as “Bold Purpose”, but retitled to “Breaking the Idols of Your Heart” So, pray for us. I have never been to seminary, but I wanted to go very badly as a younger Christian. And I have grown up and grown old with people people of the world valuing the gifts that I have.

So, both excellence and perfection are not intuitive it seems. I know someone with Down’s syndrome, and several people with mental illnesses. I think that I am learning how their “disabilities” in the world’s eyes are no hindrance from attaining perfection, and excellence with God. My disability is being able to recognize it.

So, that brings me to the last, the “Piece of …”, often “You worthless piece of …”. Those are words that I speak to myself.

I have been asking the Lord if there is something that I am doing that is blocking or slowing down His answer to my prayers for a home. Holy Spirit responded in the late afternoon two days ago “Go 24 hours without cursing yourself”. I knew it would be hard. I tried my hardest. I only had to make it until 5:00pm the next day. Make that 8:30 the next day. Arrr, make that midnight the next day. I asked for prayer and for my brothers to ask God for grace. They did. Now the 24 hours reset to today at 12:30pm. I slept long last night. I was hopeful. I got up at noon, and took the dog for a walk. Now it is 12:15 tomorrow.

In a subsequent walk with the dog, I punished him for eating poop. When he tried for what seemed to be more, I dragged him, his breathing changing, as he tried to track whatever it was. Holy Spirit stepped in. I broke a little. He was an old dog. His breed will eat anything, but seem to have a penchant for poop. He is also a tracker. A tracker that spent a lot of his life in a crate. The apartment complex offers a smorgasbord of smells. Why couldn’t I rest in that? Why do I get bent out of shape for things that he does by instinct. Why do I think that it is my job to protect him … perfectly?

I do have a responsibility to protect him. But, I think that my aiming at my own idea of perfection is harming me, my dog and my son, and my godson. John Eldredge says that we can’t treat anyone else better than we treat our own hearts. OK, I looked for it, and I was close. It seems to be one of the subjects that he addresses in one of his books that I have never read. He talks about the book, and the words he uses in the DadAwesome podcast is “One of the keys to life is this: The way you treat your own heart is the way you will end up treating everyone else’s”

With me cursing myself, I can not invite others into a home, and I can’t really receive a home from Him. I really need to grieve my cursing myself for not being enough all these years. I would appreciate anyone who offer prayer and intercession on behalf of my ex-wife, son, and godson. They have suffered too.

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