What is it about perceived perfection that captivates us?
When I say perceived perfection, let me clarify what I mean by that. I’m referring to the finished work with no reference to the toil. The stunning cake without the countertops covered in flour and icing. The perfect updo without the ten thousand Bobby pins and 2 cans of hair spray. The rainbow mermaid hair color without the excessive bleaching and permanent damage to the sanity of your hair dresser. The adorable little boy in the smoothly starched suit and bow tie without the wrestling match it took to get him into that outfit. The happy family photo without the perfect light and precise timing of the photographer.
Perceived perfection – beauty without cost. Sadly, we gave that up a long time ago. Why do we torture ourselves with image after image of the unattainable? We will scroll through Pinterest for hours on end, saving pictures of perfect place settings, dinner displays fit for royalty, family photoshoots that we do our best to imitate with limited resources. We more often than not disappoint ourselves greatly with our attempts at Pinterest level perfection. There are hundreds of posts comically deemed “nailed it” displaying our attempts of imitating the art we visually consume. And while we can laugh about it later, there is something very disheartening when we realize that our audacious attempts have fallen short.
One of my favorite image searches on Pinterest is something called “glamping.” I’m sure you’ve heard this modern term that implies a combination of the glamorous world of lights, plush pillows, soft blankets, and thick mattresses with the rustic experience of camping. There is a feeling so ethereal, so alluring, looking at an open white canvas tent with Bohemian rugs, a beautiful bed, blankets in abundance, set in the midst of circle of trees with string lights looping around the campsite or by the stillness of a vast lake.
Instagram brings us a little closer to home. I have a really pretty dining table. Built in that rustic farmhouse style that is so popular, and stained beautifully, it is the perfect background for pictures. I can take one of my fancy coffee cups, brimming with hot elixir, stack a worn out journal on top of my Bible and place them just so on the table top. Morning light filters in through one of the three windows and I can capture an illusion of perfection. Something in that picture will pull on your heart-strings, something will speak to you of hope, of possibility, or what I most like to call – Promise. Never mind the yogurt drying just outside of the shot, or the jackets piling up on the chair. Never mind that there are dirty dishes in the sink and clean dishes in the dishwasher. Here is a still moment that offers hope, refuge, quiet for a tired soul. And aren’t we all tired souls? We seem to be locked into a journey that we didn’t agree to and every thing of beauty in this world pierces our heart with feelings both bitter and sweet. What is that? You may have spent much of your life wondering at the invading sorrow in every happy moment.
Might I offer an interpretation? To the allure of perceived perfection, to beauty and comfort against the backdrop of lush forest or a still water, to a moment of rest and reflection for our souls, to the sorrow in knowing that our very happiest times will not last forever?
We were not meant for this world. I remember hearing that growing up and what followed was an unspoken understanding that what I was meant for was Heaven. I would have been ashamed to say that it didn’t offer a great deal of comfort to the disappointments and devastations of life. Has it for you?
I won’t take you all the way through the story but let me encourage you to go back and read the account of creation and the fall of man. Imagine the life, the love and energy that God poured into creation and consider this: You were created for Eden – or at least Eden restored. This Earth – restored! With the Kingdom of Heaven coming down and God’s very dwelling place being among men. But Alas – we all have sinned and we all will walk a portion of our journey in this fallen, broken, world that we were never meant for. Now go and read about the promise of the coming Kingdom – of creation restored. A new earth. The earth that we were created for – no more sorrow. No more striving and falling short. Every corner and every moment meeting every need and expectation that has ever been neglected on this side of eternity.
So what do we do with this exciting news? How do we take it into our world? To our families, our moms and dads, our husbands, our friends, our children, our co-workers? How do we take it to Pinterest and Instagram and Facebook?
Two things I would like to share with you:
1)”The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-19 HCSB)
2) “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” (John 20:21 NLT)
What is the good news? That Jesus came. That He lived a perfect life and died for our sins. That He was resurrected, ascended into Heaven and most importantly the Promise that He is coming again! For too long we have ended the gospel message with the resurrection and asked of ourselves and of our peers to try to live a good, moral, Christian life so that we will make it to Heaven. What about the hope? What about when Heaven comes to us? What about the part where Jesus returns and establishes His Kingdom on a restored earth?
I am not here to call the bluff on perfection. No. Not at all. What I want to do is open your eyes to the promise. All of the precious moments in our life that are a glimpse of the Kingdom. All of the breathtaking sights, intoxicating tastes and smells, heart to heart connections, unbridled laughter. Look for the promise everywhere. Look for Him. Yes, in the sunrise and sunsets and wonders of creation. But don’t stop there. Look closer. I find the promise everyday. When I bury my face into Elena Joy’s soft little face and breath in all of that baby sweetness. When Micah and I have the same unspoken thought simultaneously and share a knowing smile from across a room. When I’ve finished a poem or song. Even, in an old worn out journal, and a cup of coffee. Especially in my Bible.
One last story, if you will allow me.
This week my sister delivered to me, on bended knee, a tiny, beautiful little treasure chest. In the style of a marriage proposal, she opened the chest to reveal a candy ring pop and the words, written on antique scalloped paper, “Will you be my Maid of Honor?” There was nothing graceful or picture worthy about my response (although we do have pictures). I didn’t have time to compose myself into a dignified smile and gracious acceptance but instead flew into my sister’s arms as we celebrated a moment of absolute treasure and promise. How fitting that it was delivered to me in the tiniest, perfect treasure chest. If only all of our moments of promise were so easily recognizable. Instead they are much more like the hunt for secret treasure. But, oh the joy as we become expert treasure hunters. We will find that there is more treasure to uncover here than we had imagined.
Do we ignore the mess? No. It’s still there. And I can’t say that I personally have found the promise in a sink of dirty dishes. Do we criticize the perceived perfection? No. It can serve as a reminder of a far greater perfection that is coming to us. Do we attempt to make others believe that the faultlessly fixed hair or the spotlessly clean house is an absolute representation of every aspect of our personal lives? No! But don’t resent perceived perfection. Plunder the promise from every beautiful image that fills you with longing.
Go ahead and post that picture of your cozy coffee and stack of devotions and offer a bit of hope to a world that is starved for promise.