Thursday, October 9, 2014

Perfection Redefined





Perfection!  Nobody has it, nor will ever come close enough to touch it.  Right?

So much of disappointment in the human condition can be attributed to the expectation of perfection.  All of us say it: "I'm not perfect-- my life, my job, my family, is not perfect, but... ". To our credit, we're trying to look on the bright side.

We all understand that life isn't perfect, don't we?  Understand it, but somehow still expect to attain it, and subconsciously abuse ourselves over the fact that we aren't making it happen.  "Once I make more money, find the perfect relationship, get in shape, renovate my house, get a new car, achieve my professional goals, start a family, finish EVERYthing I set out to do, my life will be perfect.  Even though there's no such thing as a perfect life."  It's a natural inclination; as children of God, with his spark of divinity within us, we were born for a circumstance greater than this world can provide-- we were made for eventual perfection, and so our spiritual wiring keeps on demanding it, however elusive it may be.

But say you do manage the near-impossible goal of putting everything in your life exactly as you imagine it in its perfect condition.  What happens next?  Imagine yourself, standing there in your perfect yard with your perfect spouse and perfect children and perfect dog and perfect neighbors, anticipating the next day at your perfect job with perfect pay and perfect holidays and perfect birthdays and perfect dinners and perfect nights' sleep and days and years of perfect health and perfect appearance and perfectly absent opposition.  What now?  I contend that you would be afraid to move a muscle, because no single element in this equation remains unchanged, ever.  Life is moving parts, most of them moving independent of your control.  Even that which IS in your control is under the control of an imperfect person!  There is no such thing as a perfect life-- at least, not the way the world defines 'perfection.'

We might assume, then, that life is inevitably and perpetually disappointing.  The inherent nature of the soul seeks perfection, in a world where perfection is mockingly, brazenly impossible.  Every conscious acceptance of this imperfection is quickly followed by an unconscious return to feeling after it.  And surely this is a fact to which we must give our reluctant deference-- repeated yearning, repeated surrender.  Right?

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Only if you see perfection as a permanent, unmoving destination.  How could it be, in a fluid, biological world cogged into a ticking timeline?  There IS perfection here.  It's not yours.  It's not anyone's.  It's an organism of the moment, feeding every individual as need and natural law dictates.

Perfection is in a symbiotic relationship with its opposite, its nemesis, that bit of darkness that makes it shine all the more beautiful just as stars shine brighter in a darker sky-- IMperfection. Things break.  They crumble, corrupt, crack, fall apart.  We stumble and sometimes come crashing down in spectacularly dramatic fashion.  We lose things, precious things that tear at us as they rip from our grasp.

And then something sweeps in, great or small, and makes things right-- not always permanently right, but an in-the-moment, exquisite, beyond reason and often unearned return to rightness.  A wound heals, a break repairs, a stumble becomes a dance, a collapse becomes an opportunity to rise stronger, a hurt receives relief, our hands become filled with more than what separated itself from us.

And that is perfect.

Terrestrial, of-this-existence perfection is not to have everything right, but to have the right things in the right moments.  It is not to be free of suffering, but to have access to relief; not to be without illness, but to have a warm place to lay your head and a full belly in times of infirmity; not to have a perfect relationship, but to have an imperfect person in whom you find perfect companionship-- someone who makes you smile when you sorrow and whose company dispels your loneliness.

Perfection in this world is not the absence of misery, but the daily deliverance from it, even in the very second in which it occurs.  Perfection is the sigh of acceptance when a stranger smiles at you, or the opening of your soul when you smile at a stranger.  None of us is a perfect person, nor does any one of us have a perfect situation, no matter how grandiose or full it may appear from the outside.  But every one of us has experiences when a flawed moment is overcome by a perfect relief, and everyone is capable of providing such reliefs to someone else-- whether massive or seemingly inconsequential.

With this in mind, consider the words "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).  The word 'perfect' in this context is grammatically associated with 'complete, finished, fully developed' (see footnotes in the LDS-published KJV Bible). Jesus Christ was still living a mortal life when he made this declaration.  Now consider his verbiage after his resurrection: "Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect" (3 Nephi 12:48).  After his resurrection, he included himself in the statement.

Under these parameters, he referred to physical and eternal perfection that takes place through the resurrecting process.  His Father is a perfected being, a vessel which can literally bear and produce perfection of itself.  We are not-- we can place ourselves in its proximity and dwell in its presence, but we cannot 'BE' perfect the way the Father and his Son are-- not in our current world, not without becoming resurrected beings ourselves.  God did not command us to 'be a person who does everything perfectly and never makes mistakes!'  He commanded us to be somebody capable of receiving eternal life one day.  "Be finished, like I am."

Perfection in the earthly realm is a fluid, reparative entity, that which corrects and heals as it goes.  Christ's entreaty to 'be perfect' means "seek to become an exalted, resurrected being in which light can dwell, through which light can flow, from which light can be produced.  Do that which ye have seen me do, so someday you can become that which ye have seen me become." Today, we can only observe the perfection around us, externally, and put ourselves in its path.  Hereafter, we can become creatures in which perfection can dwell and expand.

So how do we prepare for this later transformation in the here and now?  Follow the instructions.  There are natural laws governing all things.  There are absolutes.  Our adherence to absolutes, our respect for the laws that govern this existence, determine the level of perfection which we draw into our daily lives.  Don't believe me?  Consider anyone who has tried to defy the law of gravity.  Commandments are instructions on how to obey natural laws.  Defy them and you fall to imperfections and miseries that were entirely avoidable.  Obey them and you place yourself within reach of the grace of Jesus Christ.  You draw into your life the daily perfections that make life a joy to live.

Perfection is correction-- circumstances correcting themselves, whether immediately or eventually.  Recognize those moments.  Savor them.  Count them and collect them, write them down, remember how gracious God has been with his perfection.  And be patient in tribulation; your steadfast obedience to His laws will-- absolutely WILL-- result in a correction, a perfection, of every last wrong in your being, whether here or hereafter.  Until that day, enjoy the perfect bowl of soup, the perfect sunset, the perfect friendship (with an imperfect friend!) and "press forward, with steadfast faith" in the perfected self to come.



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