Writing is a challenge at the moment. After deleting four attempts at this reflection, I deserted my keyboard. Each time I reread Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 5:38-48), I hoped for inspiration. Unfortunately, I stunted the process by fixating upon the last line of this passage. After telling his disciples how they must rise above the expectations of those around them, Jesus added, “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” While I am not certain of the disciples’ feelings, Jesus’ seems to challenge me beyond my capabilities. For the past few weeks, I have felt painfully flawed which adds to my frustration. Though I have been well aware of my imperfections all of my life, their burden weighs me down just now.
My discouragement is fueled by an ongoing project to which I recently returned. I am writing a book. Many who read Something To Think About which I write for my parish bulletin have remarked that they look forward to this weekly encounter. Many who read this blog have said the same. I take these kind words to heart every time I hear them. As a result, I decided a while ago to reveal the source of my inspiration.
Though my lifetime to date is as flawed as I am, it provides many of the stories which fill this space. While I am uncertain of the Almighty’s motives, I am quite certain that God has been extremely generous in using my life’s circumstances to inspire me. Almost everyone and everything I experience sheds some light on God’s love and God’s presence among us. I cannot walk around my cul-de-sac without being reminded of God along the way. My book tells the story of this phenomenon’s evolution throughout my life. The problem is that when I return to my manuscript, I edit everything I have written to date. Every time I complete a chapter, I second-guess my effort. Regardless of my attention to detail, I question every memory and my interpretation of these events. While this book is certainly minor in the grand scheme of things, it has taken on great importance to me. As a result, I have become more and more agitated as my confidence slips away. When I returned to my book the other day, I wondered if I was ever meant to write. After reading Jesus’ challenge to be “perfect” in today’s gospel, I was tempted to give up on the book all together. I had convinced myself that perfection is an absolutely unattainable goal for me.
When I prepare for these writings, I read the scriptures from a source which includes commentaries on each of the passages. These notes provide explanations regarding vocabulary or other background information that is likely unfamiliar to those of us who are not scripture scholars. When I returned to Matthew’s gospel one last time, I reread the commentary which accompanies it.
“How could I have missed this?” I asked myself. These notes explain that the word “perfect” which Jesus used comes from the Latin word for entire, complete and full-grown. As I considered this, it occurred to me that apple seeds grow into apple trees, tomato seeds grow into tomato plants, and acorns grow into mighty oaks. Though my granddaughters share the same parents, each one has unique features which distinguish her completely from her sisters. Even my identical twin cousins exhibit subtle differences which make their identities apparent to the rest of us. Just as a tomato seed will never produce an apple tree, none of us will evolve into anything other than an entire, complete and full-grown version of ourselves. Apparently, our loving Creator feels that this is precisely as it should be.
Whenever you and I put our best efforts into the things we do, we work toward becoming entire, complete and full-grown. Jesus asked his disciples to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” in the unique manner of which each one was capable. This is all God asks of you and me.
It was with this perfectly timed inspiration that I returned to this writing. In the midst of the discouragement which plagued me for the past few weeks, I failed to recognize God in my surroundings and in myself. Fortunately, God never stopped recognizing the potential in me -and in you. God simply cannot ignore our capacity to be entire, complete and full-grown; nor should we. So it is that God invites us to embrace our circumstances and to make the best of them as only we can. With every attempt, we emerge a bit more entire, complete and full-grown. In the end, we are perfect in God’s eyes.
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