76. Imperfection Perfected!

      IMPERFECTION PERFECTED!

     I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not perfect!  I realize that’s not much of a surprise to those who know me……they’ve known that for a long time!  But recently I’ve become more aware of what that means and how that impacts my daily life.   I didn’t have to look to hard to find personal examples. 

     As I sit down to write this blog the evidence of Spring is busting out everywhere.  The giant Red Oak in my front yard sprouted leaves virtually overnight after a week of warm temperatures.  The daffodils that had bloomed in March have already begun to wither, Home Depot is packed with “do-it-yourselfers”, and my neighbors have seemingly begun to emerge from their cocoons to explore the outside world.

     One of my favorite things about Spring is the sound of lawnmowers in the neighborhood. I love the smell of fresh cut grass and the clean, neat lines the mower makes on my lawn.  I’m always anxious to break out my lawnmower and join the parade. 

     Eugene Peterson, in his book “Run With Horses”, tells the story of trying to remove the blade on his lawnmower to get it sharpened with the onset of spring.  He says he turned the mower on its side, got the biggest wrench he could find and tried to remove the blade.  Despite his best efforts he couldn’t budge the bolt that held it on.  He added a 4’ pipe to the end of the wrench to get a little leverage, but nothing worked.  Finally, he grabbed a big rock and began banging on pipe, but to no avail.  He was getting “emotionally involved” with his lawnmower.  

     Finally his neighbor, who had been watching this fiasco from across the street, walked over to talk with Eugene.  With a sly smile he told Eugene he previously owned that model of mower, and “if he remembered correctly” the bolt that held on the blade was threaded in the opposite direction. You can imagine how embarrassed Eugene was when he reversed his effort and the bolt quickly came loose and was removed.  A little “gentle correction” made all the difference. 

      I’ve become “emotionally involved” with an inanimate object a time or two!  I remember once working on the Dodge Omni  we owned while I was in Seminary.  The water pump had gone out and we were truly as poor as “church mice”.  Though I have no mechanical abilities, I decided to try to save some money and replace it myself.  The water pump was held onto the chassis by 9 bolts – 8  of which came off very easily.  However, that last bolt was a puzzle.

     I tried everything I could think of to get a wrench on that bolt, but nothing worked.  I actually spent a couple of hours trying to loosen it, but all I got for my efforts were a few skinned knuckles and a lot of frustration.  I definitely got “emotionally involved”, throwing wrenches across the carport and muttering things that must have made my wife wonder if I had lost my salvation. 

      I finally walked down to the dealer a couple of miles away to get some answers.  After telling the service tech my story he simply said,   “Oh, you need a special tool for that bolt”.  I was less than blessed by that answer.  However, whether I liked it or not, I needed that bit of “gentle correction”. 

           Sometimes we all need a little “correction” – especially when we are “emotionally involved”.  We may not like it, but we need it!    When we become painfully aware that we are not perfect, we need someone to point us in the right direction. 

      Unfortunately,   too often I’m hesitant to accept that correction because that’s an admission of personal failure.  Granted, I know I’ve failed, and I need the help, but I don’t like to admit that the mess I’m dealing with is my own fault.  I seem to have perfected the art of imperfection.  If I don’t get correction, nothing will change and I’ll just keep living with the mess I’ve created.

     I don’t think I’m alone.  TOO MANY PEOPLE ARE STILL LIVING IN THE MESS OF THEIR FAILURES.  They’ve become “emotionally involved” because they’re stuck in their own imperfections.  What they need is someone to help them find a way to the other side of the mess. 

      Picture  a scene with me.  It actually comes for John’s gospel account.  In John 21 we find the story of Jesus interacting with his impetuous disciple Peter following the resurrection. Jesus had already appeared to His disciples at least twice.  Now Peter and some of his friends had begun to return home near the Sea of Galilee, trying to figure out what to do next.  In the story recorded in chapter 21 Jesus had just helped them bring in an unexpected catch of fish, and then invited them to join Him for an impromptu breakfast.  But it’s what happens after breakfast that intrigues me.  Jesus pulls Peter aside and uses this moment to restore him. 

     To understand what’s going on you need to remember that Peter had been personally involved in most of the highlight moments of Jesus’ ministry.  However, he had proven to be far from perfect.  At the Garden of Gethsemane he got “emotionally involved” and acted rashly, cutting off the ear of the High Priest’s servant, much to Jesus’ chagrin. Despite his previous bold claims,  when Jesus was arrested Peter ran away. Then hanging out on the fringes at the High Priests courtyard while Jesus was being tried,  Peter denies even knowing Jesus, not once but three times.

Peter had failed miserably and found himself in a mess of his own creation! 

        Obviously Peter knew Jesus had risen from the dead……he had just eaten breakfast with Him……BUT HE WAS STILL LIVING WITH HIS FAILURE!   Jesus had plans for Peter, so he had to get Peter focused on the next step rather than wallowing on his past missteps.   It was time for Jesus to not so gently correct His very “imperfect” disciple

      That’s where this story gets interesting to me!    Look at John 21:17:

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”  Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

     Did you see it?   JESUS WASN’’T AFRAID TO HURT PETER’S FEELINGS!

     Peter denied Jesus 3 times, so Jesus questioned him 3 times.    Jesus loved Peter enough to correct him…..even if it hurt him.  

     And don’t miss the subtlety of Jesus’ question.  He asked Peter 3 times if he “loved” him using the Greek word:  “AGAPE” – Self-giving, unconditional lovePeter’s answer was  “Yes, I love you Jesus” using the word “PHILEO” – Self-preserving, brotherly love

     The question wasn’t just  “Peter, are we really friends?”   The question was “Peter, are you ready to move on and really show how much you love me?”  Jesus seems to be saying,

You talk a good game, but will you prove it?

     Let me suggest we’re not all that different from that burly fisherman called Peter!  We, too, are very “imperfect” disciples that need some not so gentle correction from time to time!  

      No one likes to get their feelings hurt!  Jesus was asking Peter to step out on faith and prove his love. He basically was telling Peter to his face….you haven’t done that yet….but you’re going to!   Just look at John 21:18-19.  Jesus wasn’t afraid to confront Peter with his previous failure.  Peter was Jesus’ choice to lead the movement that would change the world. Therefore, it was time for Peter to move past his mistakes and take on his God-ordained future

       We are all imperfect people;  in some ways I take comfort in that realization! No one’s really got it all together all the time!  As long as we’re breathing we’re going to be prone to making mistakes…..maybe even some big ones!  Heaven knows I’ve made my share!!   But I think I’ve come to realize lately that Jesus loves us enough to hurt our feelings, if necessary, to get us to move  past those mistakes and claim our God-ordained future!

     In fact, I’m fully convinced one reason God allows us to get “emotionally involved” in messes of our own creation is because He knows that there is nothing that will increase our passion to pursue Him more than this pain of facing our imperfection. 

    Tom Landry, the great football coach, understood this principle. He once said:

“The job of a football coach is to make men do what they don’t want to do, in order to achieve what they’ve always wanted to be”.

     We’re all imperfect, but I sincerely believe Jesus wants to help us all move on to the future He’s called us to! Like Peter we can learn from those past mistakes and use that experience to help us actually accomplish the things God wants us to do.  Our imperfections can become stepping stones to our spiritual growth! 

     Yes, I’m sure Jesus’ words stung Peter that day…..but it was for his own good!  I’ve come to the realization that we should view the pain of such moments like going to the dentist –  a not particularly enjoyable experience, but one that is necessary for the benefit it gives you after the pain passes! 

     I think I’m finally coming to accept my imperfection. In fact, to my dismay,  I’m painfully aware that I have almost “perfected imperfection”.  I only hope that the next time God calls me into the woodshed for a little “gentle correction” ….….and He will…….. I will remember that He loves me and such correction really is for my own good!

He isn’t afraid to hurt my feelings……..and He’s not afraid to hurt yours either!    🙂