Wednesday, 25 February 2015

On Being a Beautiful Mess

Sixpence None the Richer’s This Beautiful Mess is one of the best albums ever released. It’s an honest reflection about being a fallen, sinful human in a fallen world; none of this Kiss Me nonsense of later years! Anyway, it’s been a while since I listened to This Beautiful Mess – and I mean really listened to it, not just having it on in the background – but something I’ve been reading has drawn me back to the album and the song ‘Within a Room Somewhere’ in particular (there’s a harsher-toned demo version on Sixpence’s Tickets for a Prayer Wheel, too). Here are the lyrics that especially draw me:

Messiah / I know you are there / within, without me, holding me
Messiah / I know you are there / catching, carrying, this beautiful mess

And here’s what I read yesterday in a book on perfectionism:

We need to understand what God says – and really means – about perfection. Yet even when we turn to the Bible for guidance, our interpretation of what we read is sometimes mistaken and not at all helpful. Undoubtedly, the first verse that pops into our minds is: ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matt. 5:48). But Jesus is setting a goal or a standard for perfect love here, not insisting on perfect behaviour. The Hebrew understanding of ‘perfect’ means moving towards fulfilment. An accomplished artist knows that his or her work will not be perfect from the first brushstroke. Often it looks a mess before it looks marvellous! But the artist has high standards: perfection is the goal. Anything less would result in a less than perfect painting. So, stroke by stroke, moment by moment, the work becomes more and more the thing it was designed to be. The closer it comes to completion, the more perfection can be seen in it: a glimmer here, a suggestion there. It is going on towards being perfect, but perfection will only be seen when it is brought to an end by completion. That’s how God sees us: as a work in progress, going on towards completion when at least perfection will be seen. For us now, He sets standards and goals of love and behaviour to help us on our way. But they are hopes/desires – goals – not expectations, because He knows that anything less than high standards will not encourage us to reach our best.

Chris Ledger and Wendy Bray, Insight into Perfectionism. Waverley Abbey Insight Series (Farnham: CWR, 2009), pp. 26–27, emphasis original

There’s some comfort in continually being reminded that God doesn’t need me to be perfect. Perfection is surely an eschatological concept, not one for this present evil age. But I do find it frustrating that I need continually to be reminded of this!

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