If you cut a sandwich in half and the two halves weren’t exactly the same size, would you throw it away and make a new one? Probably not. Nor would you spend 30 minutes in front of the mirror making sure that your tie was tied perfectly as a general rule, although perhaps for an important date or photo day you might. Most of us are quite content with “good enough” standards in our lives. We do demand higher standards from, say, engineers and doctors (“I think I got most of the cancer.” “Oh, that’s good enough, thanks Doc.”….?!) but for ourselves and the people around us we are willing to expect less.
Not so Adrian Monk, a character in one of my favorite t.v. shows, “Monk”. Monk takes perfectionism to a personality disorder degree. He is a caricature of phobias and perfectionism, a square peg in a round world, a detective who solves cases by noticing EVERYthing around him to the tiniest detail. His very nature refuses “good enough” so much so that he is a constant irritant to all around him. Watching “Monk” one cannot help but acknowledge how very often we settle for “good enough.”
Perfection is not our goal. We know ourselves well enough not to even try to believe we can or will attain perfection in anything we attempt – instead we head for 95%, 90, 45…How many sandwiches will we make before we eat lunch? One. No matter how it’s cut. Yet for Christians there’s a verse that’s extremely uncomfortable. “Be holy as I am holy” – be utterly perfectly perfect as I am completely and totally without error or evil. Attainable? Not likely! Most of the people I talk to comfort themselves with “We’ll all be holy in heaven” and that’s been the general church rule, except for blips like the early Methodists who tried, perhaps harder than most, to reach personal perfection. And of course, monks hide away in monasteries trying to reach holiness. Yet even the holiest person you and I have ever met will surely admit that they are far from perfection. So is God just holding the bar up higher than we can ever reach and laughing at us? Or does he want us to “try our best” as we so often tell children? Is he really perfect?
I think unconsciously we know how impossible perfection is and so we try to mold God into our image instead of being confronted with the uncomfortable failures we are. You don’t have to reach the outer fringe of heretical circles where “Jesus was just a man” to hear the perfection of God in doubt or “good enough” settled for. The Bible without error and totally perfect? Many say yes, it’s just that God allowed errors to creep in over the years of transmission to us. Others don’t even claim perfection for the first draft! Is creation perfect? Well, maybe it was in Eden but it’s clear things are pretty messed up now…and that’s ok. Because that’s “good enough” and we’re quite comfortable here. It’s where we live. Yet inside that small voice still whispers “Not quite right” and so we comfort ourselves with Heaven. All is perfection in Heaven and we will be made perfect in Heaven. And we allow God to be perfect in Heaven, just not down here. Here in the land of “good enough” we make excuses for him. Yet is it possible that God IS perfect, that this creation is exactly as he wants it, and we should be trying every day to be perfect as he is perfect?
I hope not. Because that sure complicates things. Just watch “Monk”.