“I’m sorry you’re not perfect Mom.”
Smiling face upturned and eyes dark brown in the shadow of his Batman jacket hood, he reached for my hand. Apparently I had brushed him aside in my frenzy at the stove, flipping pancakes, scrambling eggs, and boiling fruit syrup. His sincere and completely accurate assessment had followed his curt pronouncement that I had stepped on his foot.
I bent down to eye level and sat him on my knee. “You and me both,” I said.
Of my three kids, William is the most like me – energetically sensitive. Somehow, he knew what had been on my mind.
This week hasn’t been my most stellar. On days like today, my own weaknesses frustrate me to no end. “Why can’t I just be perfect?” I ask God in exasperation. Shame had a vice-grip on my life for 29 years, and though I live free from it 99 percent of the time now, it is still a pitfall I have to watch carefully. Once I fall in, it feels comfortable, familiar. It’s easier to wallow in hatred for myself over my mistakes than to gather the courage it takes to open up my heart and accept love for the worst parts of myself. The worst parts of us need love the most, after all, if they are to be transformed.
I explained to William that none of us are perfect. “Only one person has ever been perfect, and that’s Jesus. Jesus was perfect for us because we aren’t.”
“But I’m perfect! I want to be perfect!” He exclaimed, disturbed. “I want to be a superhero!”
“You don’t have to be perfect to be a superhero. Our greatest weaknesses are often our greatest strengths. Superheros are great because of their flaws.”
It’s easy to believe this when I’m talking to my son, someone whom I love and know inside out. No mistake could ever change my view of him. It’s far harder to believe about myself.
To me, life is about love. We have come from Love, we are made of Love, and we are here to love. Period. And I want nothing more than for those around me to feel that love in a powerful way. And yet, while I am so busy trying to be a good mom, wife, sister, daughter, and friend, I suddenly remember that I forgot to call my brother on his birthday. My brother, who goes out of his way to make me feel important. My brother who texts me every day. Who shares his music playlists, thoughts, questions and ideas with me. My brother who takes me on walks to all his favorite places when I am in Michigan. How could I forget his birthday?
And since we’re being honest, I may as well add that I forgot to call my grandpa on his birthday too. In fact, I haven’t called my grandpa in months. My grandpa who mailed me recipes when I first moved away from home so I wouldn’t run out of ideas to cook for dinner. My grandpa who cried last time I visited him in Michigan, not knowing when or if he would see me again.
Or I lose my temper with my kids because I’ve filled my day with too many demands and I get lost in the business and stress. Or I snap at my husband at the end of a long day when he’s worked really hard and doesn’t deserve it. Or – my most constant struggle – I am quiet and withdrawn, hindered in my ability to express myself verbally, causing others to feel unwelcome around me. I have wrestled with this since childhood, and cried over it many nights. “Why couldn’t I have a warm and welcoming personality?” I ask God in my weakest moments.
But then I think about the strengths and weaknesses of the people around me. I remember that those who are critical are also the most honest. Those who are withdrawn are also the most refreshing and sincere. Those who are pushy are the ones who care the most. Those who are impatient are also the most passionate. Those who are absent-minded are also creative and inventive. We are all equally flawed and limited beings, and those flaws and limitations serve a purpose: our own growth and the growth of those around us. At the end of the day, we all just want to love and be loved, and that’s exactly what we are teaching each other to do.
Life is the school of love. Learning means growth, and growth is messy, and we find ourselves in the mess together, unable to hide.
But God is love and there is no fear in love. Transformation happens when we surrender our fear and allow the love of God to flow into the deepest, darkest, scariest places in our hearts. When we allow it to make us whole and pure and confident and brave and peaceful and strong and free.
And that’s the way I choose to live now.
I’ll never be perfect as long as I’m here. But I can be fearless. And I can be at peace with myself. And I can keep putting myself out there, risking everything, and trying to get it right. I can accept love for myself and I can love those around me, unashamed and undeterred, even and especially when we all get it wrong.
Because everywhere I look I see flaws. Beautiful flaws. Flaws that support and comfort and strengthen. Flaws that sharpen and teach and humble and prune. Flaws that are two sides of the same coin: strengths that channel love to me where I am lacking, and weaknesses that provide me with opportunities to respond in love.
Finding God there in the brokenness, the mess, the growth – that’s what we came here to do. And in Him finding yourself – your true self, the one you forgot, the one you were meant to be – that’s what it’s all about. That moment when you find love in your darkest moments- transforming, satisfying, living love – and suddenly everything makes sense…
Well that, my friends, is perfection.