Linc was 5 when we learned he needed glasses. I remember when Laura came home and broke the news to me. We were told he would need glasses the rest of his life. An odd disillusionment swept over me. It felt a lil like the floor fell out from under me. “You mean, he’s not perfect?” was my first thought. My second thought was, “Does this mean he can’t be a fighter pilot?” (He never mentioned he wanted to be a fighter pilot) We even cried a lil and then quickly put on a positive face when he bounded into the room. I know this is nothing compared to what other parents go through. I only share this story to illustrate the misconception we have with perfection.
Perfection can become our loftiest virtue. If we’re not happy, something is wrong. If things aren’t moving up and to the right, we need to make a change. If our relationship isn’t always fireworks, she must not be “the one”.
But things were never perfect.
Genesis 1 & 2 is a poem about God creating the universe. He speaks it all into existence and after completing each part, he announces it “good.”. The starfish and sunsets and snow are good. The planets and porcupines and pine trees are good. You and I are described as “very good”.(1)
But think about this for a moment. If there were animals, how did they eat?
They killed other animals.
If there were stars then there was day and night. If there were seasons, then there was winter and spring.
There was life and death.
Light and darkness.
Birth and pain.
And God deemed all of it.
All of it…
It was never perfect. It was never meant to be.
“Feelings Are the F-Word For Christians”
There is a big difference between reciting a platitude and having peace. We can all nod our heads to the statement, “No one’s perfect” and go on to live a life plagued by comparison and discontentment. We can deny perfection without embracing the good.
Laura’s been teaching me this a lot lately. She’s been helping me realize negative feelings can be good. For most of my life, I’ve trained myself to ignore, suppress, and medicate negative feelings.(2) Feelings like loneliness, fear, and anxiety were to be avoided at all costs. Even a shallow Christianity will reinforce this. After all, “Fear not!” Or, “Don’t be anxious about anything.” See, it’s right there in the Bible, I’m not supposed to feel those things.
But I do.
And you do too.
And God knows.
And it’s good.
What if learning to feel again will make us become more human? More courageous. More whole. More alive. What if an inner peace is not the absence of negative feelings but the ability to include and transcend them?
Could this be what Jesus was doing in the dessert for 40 days? He didn’t walk through this world weirdly disconnected from the pains around him. He wasn’t a phantom hovering around unaffected by tragedy. He got his hands dirty. He cried, and sweated drops of blood, and screamed to heaven, and felt the pain of betrayal, and the sting of death.
He taught us how to live.
He felt it all.
That’s why we can call it “Good Friday”.
The Good Book.
The Bible is filled with imperfections. People try hard to ignore or excuse these contradictions but they’re in there. It’s remarkable, the theological back flips people will try to keep the scriptures perfect. (2)
But it’s not.
It was never meant to be.
The Bible was written by imperfect people. They wrote down stories from their imperfect perspective trying to imperfectly explain God. Paul is notorious for terribly long run-on sentences. Mark forgets to even mention the resurrection. (Kinda important) Parts of the Old Testament makes God out to be a genocidal maniac. Honestly, it’s a big mess. A big beautiful mess.
Imagine going to the library and expecting every book you pick up to say the same thing. You grab a book of German poetry from the 1940’s and a recent American history book. They both mention World War 2 but don’t seem to be saying the same thing. You are confused by the contradictions so of course, you stand up in the middle of the library and announce loudly, “Attention everyone, this library is worthless! It’s not perfect! Let’s get out of here! Who’s with me?”
I started giggling to myself while imagining what the reactions of others in the library would be. I’m guessing you’d leave alone. Before you start to think this story is too silly remember the word “Bible” actually means, “Library”.
It’s not a book.
It’s a library of books.
Written by people.
That simple truth has helped me reaccept the Bible. It’s even helped me enjoy it more. I’m no longer trying to cross all the T’s and make sense of all the contradictions. I’m allowing the run-on sentences and genocide and confusing events and poetry and history to be imperfect.
So it can be good.
It’s in the imperfections I get to see a wonderfully patient God interact over hundreds of years with very imperfect people. He gently moves imperfect humanity forward, meeting them where they’re at, always nudging them a lil at a time. Seeing God in the run-on sentences, contradictions, and perspectives of the Bible gives me hope I can see him in my own imperfect life. If the Bible doesn’t have to be perfect, and God still speaks, then I don’t have to be perfect either and God can speak over me.
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” -Gen. 1:31
Three years later, I can’t image Linc without glasses. I would never trade the way he looks up at me over his glasses with this cheshire grin that tells me he’s up to something. Or all the times he’s running around the grocery store and a concerned mom is wondering where his parents are only to take one glance at me in glasses rounding the corner. We both smile, knowing he looks exactly like me. The quirks, idiosyncrasies and imperfections of Lincoln is what makes him Lincoln. He’s not perfect and I’m so glad.
Perhaps good is better than perfect.
Good includes pain and joy. Good welcomes contradictions and inspiration. Good embraces life, death, faith, doubt, humanity and divinity.
Perfect is an illusion but good is a gift.
1. This idea of good vs perfect originated for me from an episode of the Robcast. I think it’s episode 9. Check it out.
2. For more on this, I recommend my friend’s book Feels Like Redemption by Seth Taylor.
3. The idea of the Bible being perfect has only been around since 1913. The enlightenment claimed truth was only that which can be scientifically verified. In response, some Christians got insecure and claimed the Bible was something it was never meant to be.