No complaining. Period. For 21 days in a row. That’s the challenge that has been issued to folks at Floris UMC for the month of September by our pastor. Him included. We are wearing purple wrist bands to remind us of our pledge and to help us keep tabs. Every time we complain we must switch our band to the other wrist. And return to Day One.
I like challenges. I like physical reminders. And, I am prone to complain. But I also try to do what I’m told, so I set out yesterday to begin my 21 days. And wouldn’t you know? I found someone’s behavior quite irritating.
No complaining, I told myself. But I was too late. I had already registered the complaint internally, which, of course, meant that God heard my complaint and had hit the Divine Gong. Switch that band.
Whoa. Wait a minute. Complaint free means not only no complaining to people but no complaining to God. I’m not sure, but I think that includes no journaling my complaints either, because they’re intended for Him, too. This is gonna be harder than I thought!
I mean, even when I manage to keep what I’m thinking to myself AND avoid sharing it with a group of friends who SURELY will support me and validate the righteous indignation I feel, I still dump on God. Regularly. Because I want Him to DO something about all these injustices.
And He takes it. He absorbs all my grievances, likely with a great shake of the head or a deep furrow of the divine brow, and hears me out. In fact, He listens. And when I listen back, I hear myself reflected. Most the time we are in agreement. That is a terrible situation. That is an unfair practice. Those are tragic circumstances.
But our God isn’t a Mr- Fix-it God. My complaints are really meant for THAT God. Won’t you please repair him. Won’t you please help them get along. Won’t you please chastise those people for being so rude …so proud…so insensitive. I want Him to do my dirty work.
God listens, but He has also spoken. His answer is us.
- Take your grievance to the one who needs to hear it.
- Take your cause to the one who can enact it.
- Apply your energy to right what you see wrong.
- Stand for those who cannot or are not standing on their own.
…with my blessing, as I would if were I you. Ask it and then act, In My Name. That may be the truest Love of all.
What a quiet September God is going to have.
“Practice makes perfect, but nobody’s perfect so why practice?”
That was one of my favorite expressions when I was a young athlete. ‘Course I didn’t believe a word of it. I practiced all the time. In fact, as I pull out the nameplates from old trophies my daughter observes that I have way more “most dedicated” awards than “MVPs.” The fact was, I knew I wasn’t as skilled as many of the other players so I made up for it by working harder. I think the ‘nobody’s perfect’ expression was my way of:
- telling them they shouldn’t practice (so I would get the advantage) and
- throwing them off the trail of my secret (that I needed to practice all the time to consider myself good enough) and perhaps
- making myself feel better about never reaching “perfect”
Perfection is such a dangerous objective. Why do we work so hard to get there, knowing we can’t? And what about this pursuit devastates us so?
I am wondering, today, whether perfection is an illusion sewn by the enemy who wants us to fail. “Better” sounds way more like Christ to me. Not, better than. Just better.
Oh, I do believe he expects improvement and He won’t stand for less than our best, but I think it’s better and better, not perfection that He dangles before us. Something like: “Gotta be better,” or “Now that’s better.” NOT “You’re so much better than her” or even “You’ll be better when…” I think He settles for better as long as our intention is to keep up the good work.
I like better because it’s something I can always be. Even when I can’t be best or perfect. Even, in fact, when I am pummeled on the field of play, even when I lose, and perhaps even moreso when I am both pummeled and lose, I am given a gift – something I can work on so I can be better. And that heads me in the direction of perfection without holding that weight over me that says, “See, look how far from perfect you are.”
And that is the inspiration to me of Christ. He doesn’t sit on His heavenly throne and look down upon me pointing out my faults and how far I am from the perfection He is. He just sits before me and inclines my ear and my eye. He sets the example and then lets me sketch. Look up, look down. See how it looks, make your life look that way. Keep looking. Keep drawing.
I am the one drawing. I am the one choosing which lines to erase and which ones to save. It feels like I’m bettering myself in the effort, but in fact it is He who is making me better. Just by my attending to the example before me and the voice within me that says, “that line needs a bit more curve.” Just like the old voice that said “that pitch was a bit wide and outside.” He’s a target, I guess, an unmoving, unerring, pinpoint of a glove, that says, “Aim here,” without uttering a word.
And so I adjust, just a bit. To make the next line, the next throw, the next word better. Not perfect, but more nearly so.
Because everyone knows that practice, just for the sake of practice, never makes you perfect. But dedicated practice makes you better. And better draws you closer. And the closer you are the better you can see what perfect looks like.
This post is dedicated to the living memory of Dr. Donald C. Paup, teacher, mentor, friend. He was as perfect a target as I have ever known. Today Don is Perfect.