I grew up with a father who abhorred mistakes. His pastor put it nicely at his memorial service by saying my dad set the bar high. He was unwilling ever to admit when he was wrong and expected people to measure up.
Measuring was one way he sought to achieve perfection. My husband, Jim, and I still chuckle at Dad’s irritation when his carefully measured milk usage was thrown awry by our “careless” pouring of milk on our cereal. When I began making yogurt from scratch, which uses a half-gallon of milk, Jim started teasing me about the “milk count,” because of my hesitation to use milk for other purposes. A gallon of milk neatly made two batches of yogurt. My dad’s obsession with milk measurement had become mine as well.
With the comings and goings of family during the holidays, I gave up that obsession and discovered how limiting it really was. When I was no longer trying to make things come out perfectly, I discovered I could fix a cup of hot chocolate or enjoy chai tea with milk that didn’t have to be so carefully monitored.
Before you dismiss this post as just the exposé of a dysfunctional family, I invite you to consider what in your life is holding you prisoner to perfection. Lent is a good time to reflect on that question. Where are you trying to measure up so hard that you cannot be free to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate (figuratively or literally)?
Perfection is a prison that prevents us from living a full life. If you don’t believe you are imprisoned by it, consider how much effort you put into making a good showing in some area of your life. How is that effort robbing you of the joy and freedom to simply be yourself? Are you creating a prison for others by expecting perfection from them?
Jesus offers us grace, grace to break the bars of perfection’s prison. Grace doesn’t make sense, cannot be measured and thrives in imperfection. To admit our need for such grace is to recognize that we are not perfect and it’s okay that we aren’t! May we accept that grace this Lent both for ourselves and for others.