“I expect perfection.” How many times have you heard this from a coach? I know I have too many times to count. As we get to an intense, competitive level of training, in order to compete with the best, we are expected to be nothing short of perfect.
Almost exactly a month ago, KU softball had our first official practice of the 2012 season. I walked out to the field with the mindset of expecting perfection, in all that I do: in my throws from the outfield, my leads off the bases, every swing and every fly ball. And as we started our first outfield drill, throwing to bases, we had eight throws to make. My first six throws were exactly that, perfect, exactly how I had been trained to do my whole life.
And then, all of a sudden, I made an error. The ball hits off my glove as I go to field it. To make matters worse, I pick up the ball and throw it over the catcher’s head. I had tried so hard to make up for the ball off my glove that I then I made a throwing error to follow.
As much as my heart was in the drill, and all my focus, no matter how much I wanted to be perfect, it just is not meant to be that way.
How often do we get frustrated with ourselves in our faith? We ask the question: Why can’t we just be perfect for Jesus?
Paul expresses the same frustration in his letter to the Romans. Struggling with his own sin, he says, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:18) Paul’s frustration seems to climax in verse 24: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”
Paul, the man who wrote over half of the New Testament cries out because of his sin. Because he falls short, no matter how perfect he tries to be. Yet our answer is in the next verse.
Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:25)
We are reminded here that Jesus, the Son of Man, was tempted in everyway, just as we are, yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). He came to be Perfection for the imperfect. When I get frustrated with my sins, with my imperfections, I remember that this is exactly why Christ died for me. He, who was not worthy of death, died for my imperfections.
Is making an error on the softball field a sin? No.
But am I similarly frustrated when I fail in my sport compared to when I do before God? Usually.
The key verse for today’s entry is found in Philippians 3:12-15, as Paul discusses what to do with his imperfections:
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
God’s Word tells us that we should leave our imperfections behind us and look forward. When you make an error on the field, court or track, you do not let that carry on with you for the rest of the competition.
While I messed up the seventh throw, I left it behind me, picked myself back up, and made the eighth and final throw a perfect one-hopper to home plate. I forgot what was behind and strained toward what was ahead. I did not forget my original goal to strive for perfection in order to be the best softball player that I can be. Likewise, I will not let my one sin let me take a step back in my faith, because Jesus took away my sins when he died for me on the Cross. By proclaiming Jesus’ name, God does not hold my sins against me.
Should we expect to be perfect? No.
Should we strive for perfection? Yes.
We strive for perfection, as pressing on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us, because one day He who has started a good work in us will carry it out into completion, and we will be made perfect in His eyes as we receive the gift that is eternal life.