Along the way to perfection
Grace and Truth: A word from pastorsby Ron Adams
I have been thinking about perfect things lately. Given my tendency toward pondering the imperfect—a side effect of a lifelong relationship with depression—I figured I’d better go with it and so heeded the call to contemplate perfection and to seek it wherever it may be found.
That may seem like an odd pursuit during this Lenten season. Lent is a time for remembering our sin and its cost. A time for repentance and seeking assurance of forgiveness. A time for telling ourselves the truth about all that is broken and imperfect.
It is hardly the time to be celebrating those things that seem to us perfect, flawless, untainted blessings:
• Like the sloppy grin of a baby or the nape of her neck.
• Like an evening of laughter with good friends or a shared meal with true companions.
• Like Duane Allman’s guitar work on “Live From Fillmore East” or Saint-Saen’s Symphony No. 3 or a bunch of Mennonites raising the roof with good old 606.
• Like the frosted muzzle of an old dog or the swipe of a cat’s whiskers along your calf.
• Like that moment you share only with your beloved, the subject of future inside jokes and knowing glances, or walking together through a misty evening.
• Like the ending of Casablanca or the Emerald City of Oz.
• Like the death of someone at peace with what is coming or like the tears of those left behind, heartfelt and guileless, a blend of sorrow and hope.
• Like sitting on a bench in a beer garden in Munich, watching some old men play checkers, or porpoises dancing just off shore, or that moment when the fog lifts and you can see the mountain’s peak.
These are the things I’ve been thinking about lately. Things that seem to me perfect.
I suppose we all have our own lists. Perfection is largely subjective, which does nothing to diminish it or prevent us from arguing the case for the perfect things on our lists.
These are the things we dare not take for granted or overlook. They are the gems that make a too-often dismal path sparkle and shine. They are gifts.
One way to think about the journey of faith is that it is a movement from imperfection to perfection. As Paul put it, Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face. Now we are in part, but then we will be whole. Perfectly reborn in the image of Christ Jesus our Lord.
Ours is a journey from darkness and death to light and life. The season of Lent makes half that journey explicit, as we walk with Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem, from the upper room to the cross. Easter offers the other half, taking us from the cross to an empty tomb, from death to resurrection.
The future is assured. There is light at the end of the way. There is hope that all will be made new, just as God intended it, off there in the distance. We know this to be true.
But, thanks be to God, we are also blessed with signs along the way, little perfections that reveal the fulness to come, signs that, if we attend to them and read them right, give us the strength we need to keep on walking through our imperfect world.
Maybe it’s not strange to spend time this Lenten season counting our blessings. Maybe it is not out of step to think about perfect things, those small but precious jewels that point to the perfection to come.
Like that moment of absolute clarity in a time of discernment. Or that flash of insight that lifts us out of the muddle.
Like the taste of cold water on a hot day.
Like bread right out of the oven.
Like the rising of the sun and its going down.
This Lenten season, I invite us to think about those rare, perfect things in our own lives.
Let’s write them down and reflect on them daily and give thanks. They are lights along the way to perfection. Gifts from the one who walks with us through the valley and out the other side.
Come, Lord Jesus.
Ron Adams is pastor of Madison (Wis.) Mennonite Church.
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