Our Endless Pursuit of Perfection

English: A pair of reading glasses with LaCost...

I recently ordered a pair of glasses from my ophthalmology office. I have some specific needs in any pair of glasses I wear regularly. It makes for a tricky order.

They came in. And went back, because they weren’t right. The office said the prescription for one of the lenses didn’t quite match mine. It needed to be right before they’d release them to me.

I went through this several years ago, with another office, a national chain. It took them 6 tries for the lab to get my glasses right, over 3 months! The store manager was so frustrated after the 4th attempt, he called his boss’s boss, and informed him the company was reimbursing every bit of my costs, to make up for my delay and inconvenience. After the 5th attempt, corporate gave in.

I am not telling you this so you can feel sorry for me, with my challenges in ordering glasses. It is an effort to think about where the search for perfection might be a positive thing to have working, and where it might not.

A medicine icon.

The search for perfection in things like health care is a good thing. We want our prescriptions perfect, whether they be glasses or medicine. We want our doctors to diagnose us right, the first time, and prescribe the right course of treatment. We want to be having correct billing, and not pay more than our insurance company says we have to, assuming we have insurance.

We want things as close to perfect as possible when we deal with food,

Tasty Food Abundance in Healthy Europe

whether buying it or ordering it. We want to know it’s fresh and good for us. We want to know it’s not contaminated, or handled by someone who’s ill. If we’re eating out, we want it to taste good.

Most of us seek for perfection in our work. We want to do a good job for our employers, to give an honest effort for the wage they pay, whether we feel we deserve a larger one or not.

How many other areas can you think of where people seek perfection? I can think of dozens, right off the top of my head. Society gives us the message we should want perfection in our life partners, our bodies, our families (though I am beginning to think it is now pushing dysfunctional as “the new normal”), our extended relationships and so on.

English: Mid drive fluid motion quantum ellipt...

What is the result of all this search for perfection? Health clubs have booming memberships. Diet plans are everywhere you turn. A new career has sprung up and gained popularity, the Life Coach. (Not that I am knocking it, since Life Coaches with LIFE know what they’re talking about and have the fruit on the tree of experience to prove it!)

And everyone keeps searching for the elusive butterfly of perfection. never realizing it will ever remain just out of reach. Modern society tells us we want to be married to super models, be super models ourselves, have homes out of decorating magazines, kids who win all the awards and get all A’s, have perfect greeting card holidays, own the latest and greatest whatever, never have problems, never get sick or be stressed or tired . . . The list is as unrealistic as it is endless!

Even God never demanded perfection of us after the Garden of Eden. What He

English: The Garden of Earthly Delights [detai...

said as recorded in Leviticus 11:44 was,

I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.

The expectation God Himself has on humans is holiness, not perfection. A standard of excellence, not something He knew we’d find impossible to reach. God didn’t make it easy, but He did make it worthwhile.

Perfect poise

When I demand perfection of myself, or demand it of those around me, I childishly insist on  something God never expected me to do. When I insist life must be in perfect balance at all times for me to be happy, I set myself up for disappointment on a daily, even hourly, basis. If I were to insist everything I did were perfect, you would never read a single post from me! I’m careful in my editing, to say all I want to say (hopefully without offending anyone too badly!), but if I demanded perfection, I’d be editing every entry forever, and never get one of them posted! (Maybe one or two of you are saying, “Good, that means she’d shut up!”, but I hope not!)

So, how do we solve this problem? The Apostle Paul addressed it in Romans

Rembrandt - Apostle Paul - WGA19120

16:19b when he said,

I want you to be excellent in what is good and to avoid what is evil.

So our goal is excellence, not perfection. Like God’s own standard of holiness over perfection, excellence is attainable. It’s not easy. It’s hard, very hard. But it is something we can do. And perhaps, should do.

The world makes room for those who seek excellence. Excellence opens doors mere talent may only crack. Those who seek excellence in whatever they attempt eventually rise above their competition. The landmark book Talent Is Overrated by Geoff Calvin speaks to this. In it, he cites several case studies in which those who practiced their craft attained higher levels of achievement than those who relied on mere talent alone, without the discipline of continued practice applied over time.

Chris Brady

Chris Brady

Leadership guru, best-selling author, business leader, and award-winning blogger Chris Brady discussed excellence in his post, A High-Def Life. In it he said,

There is no substitute for hard work. Tim Tebow said, “It’s not hard to beat talent when talent won’t work hard.” The most successful people in life are not the ones with the most talent, but rather those who have the ability to push themselves to excellence. Remember: You won’t reach high if you won’t push on.

The secret to excellence, then, is in pursuing it. It’s a goal, not a destination. It’s one I’m headed toward,and I am one of many in the pursuit. If you’re not already, why not come and join us?

Advertisements

On Intimacy With Immensity

You are so big . . .

Your power created the universe;

Universe Mosaic

All the things I see, all I cannot.

Your wisdom smoothly runs it

Without raising a sweat on Your brow.

Your majesty is seen in it

But only as a dim reflection of Your glory.

And You want to be intimate

With small and insignificant me.

You are so loving . . .

You forgive the worst sinners

English: Crucifixion

When they come to You in repentance.

You came to give Yourself for us

While we were yet sinners all.

You would have done it if all the world were perfect

Except for one poor, sinful soul.

And You want to pour out this love

On someone as undeserving as me.

You are so powerful . . .

All You have to do is think

And amazing things happen.

A meteor and galactic center of Milky Way gala...

You decided all the laws of the universe,

And go outside them as You choose.

There is nothing that happens anywhere

That You don’t know of it before it occurs.

And You want to share Your power

Pouring it into a life as powerless as mine.

I can’t think of this too often,

You know.

You are so immense.

And I am so small.

You are so loving.

Insignificance...

And I am so insignificant.

You are so powerful.

And I am so weak.

But for all our many differences,

You demand intimacy between us.

And of all the things I’ve ever thought of,

This is the most amazing one:

To have intimacy with Your immensity

Is a thing my mind can never comprehend.

But I WANT It!

Recently, I noticed my friend Rachael at work, whose hair is normally fluffy and

A 19th century Scottish woman with curly hair ...

quite curly, had straight hair. When I commented on the change, she said she’d straightened it. She said she was tired of curly, fluffy hair, and wished for straight hair.

I laughed and told Rachael with my straight fine hair, I had wished for years for hair like hers! I reminded her how I used to pay for a salon permanent every few months, to make it curly, though it would never be thick and fluffy like

Portrait of girl with straight, blonde hair

hers. (I don’t any more.)

Rachael smiled and said, “No, you do not want fluffy and curly hair!” I grinned back and replied, “No, you do not want straight and unfluffy hair!” We were each born with what the other had, and wanted it. We laughed together over the perverse human nature in both of us, to be discontent with what we had, to believe what someone else has is better, and want theirs instead.

Humans have been like this from the beginning. In the book of Genesis, the story is

English: Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, S...

related of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Picture Eve as a Victoria’s Secret Angel and Adam as a Calvin Klein model. They were gorgeously naked and unashamed together in a place where every desire of their hearts were met, the weather was perfect, the animals well-behaved, no harmful things grew and enjoying unending fellowship with their loving God and one another.

Everything was perfect, until Eve met the Serpent, heard there ‘might’ be more. She ate the fruit, conned Adam into open rebellion against God in eating it with her, and they screwed up the whole Paradise. All because of a maybe she thought she wanted, offered by someone Eve ought not to have trusted.

Isn’t 20/20 hindsight wonderful? I’m not, however, going to kid myself into believing I would have done any differently . . . Would you? Honestly??

Truth be told, we’ve been messing it up ever since. How many wars over the millenia were simply started as wars of acquisition? Too many, I am quite sure. If we take a step back, aren’t we really sometimes at heart like small toddlers, who throw temper tantrums and fuss because we’re not getting our own way? We just might have more “civilized” means of doing it.

As I think on these things, I am reminded of the Disney movie, Finding Nemo, in

Cover of "Finding Nemo"

which the Seagulls uniformly chant “Mine! Mine! Mine!” upon seeing anything that may be perceived as possible food. It’s funny in the movie. It’s tragic to watch adults act it out daily.

The Apostle spoke to the problem in James 4:20, when he said,

You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.

We have not because we ask not. Can it be truly that simple? Of course, God isn’t a Cosmic Slot Machine, either. Unlike the Genie in another Disney movie,

Cover of "Aladdin [Region 2]"

Aladdin, God is unlimited, all-knowing, all-seeing and not bound by us or our wishes. And we don’t get 3 wishes with Him. We get the deepest desires of our hearts.

And not only do we get the desires of our hearts, we get a relationship with the One who created the Garden, who formed the universe with His thoughts, who spun the stars with a whim. We get a relationship with a Person who is so vast, our galaxy, our universe cannot hold Him, because He created it. It all comes packaged with intimacy with an immensity that is as far beyond human comprehension as the moon is to an amoeba.

And all we have to do is ask . . .

Is Orrin Woodward REALLY All He’s Cracked Up To Be?

I am often asked, “Is Orrin Woodward REALLY all he’s cracked up to be??

Orrin Woodward

Orrin and Laurie Woodward

Please allow me answer that, once and for all, with the following (true) story,  names unchanged to protect neither the guilty, nor the innocent.

I will start by saying I got an iPhone late last summer. I read the manual and became rapidly proficient in its use. Or at least, I thought I was.

Recently, a group of ladies had the privilege to attend a retirement dinner to honor Pat Tefel, the delightful and grace-filled lady leader of our TEAM LIFE business team. It was a wonderful evening, highlighted by the presence of leader, blogger, home schooling mom and all-around lovely woman,

Chris and Terri Brady

Chris and Terri Brady

Terri Brady.

Terri’s husband Chris recently had a birthday, so when I briefly spoke to her at the start of the evening, she suggested I go on FaceBook and give greetings to his partner Orrin Woodward, since it was his birthday that day. After getting a photo with Terri and my husband, I went to my table and linked into the wifi where the event was being held. I found Orrin’s page on FaceBook, and thought I left him a message on his wall.

The next morning, on my break at work, I went on FaceBook to check up on things, and see if anyone had posted photos of the party. The first thing I found was a private message from Orrin Woodward!! I had posted my birthday wishes to him privately!!! Oh, my goodness!!!

Orrin’s was the message of a gracious gentleman, honorable and kind in all his dealings, as he said,

Thank YOU Cathy! I hope you are having a blessed day.

To understand the importance of this exchange, think about having the CEO of a multi-national corporation, who has thousands of people who look to him for leadership, combined with the public acclaim of a best-selling author like Steven King, all rolled into one incredible package, on your FaceBook friend list. You are a tiny, insignificant speck in his radar, and are pleased just being acknowledged as his friend, and with a blanket group thanks to everyone who wished him birthday greetings on his wall. That is how big a deal it is to me!

When I realized the size of my blunder, and the graciousness of Orrin’s response, I posted the following, being very careful to do it to his wall:

Thank you so much for your gracious and lovely response to my accidental private message birthday greetings last night! I meant to post that on your wall!! Clearly I have more to learn about FaceBook for iPhone . . . (Color me red-faced.)

That evening at the party, I had told Terri I was a high-end tech user, and promptly proved it. I even had the boldness to call myself “the app queen!” Horrors!! In my bragging, I totally forgot Proverbs 16:18, which says

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

I fell, alright! The Law of Unintended Consequences (and Murphy’s Law) were very busy with me that night. It is only the kindness, graciousness, humility, character and gentle spirit of Orrin Woodward that saved me from total embarrassment and utter shame.

I am telling you this (and making public my foolishness) for one reason: We all look for leaders to follow, to emulate, to seek to become what they represent. Leaders who show such humility and character as Orrin Woodward did with me are worth following anywhere, and for any reason.