Embracing Imperfection

It’s a relief to say it:  My name is Jan.  I am imperfect.

My closets need to be organized.  I do not obey conventional wisdom about screen time before bed.  I sometimes eat cheese for dinner.

Here in the throes of daily accusations of sexual assault, I wonder if we have hesitated to speak up before because we need to sustain the appearance that Everything Is Okay.  Our professional and personal reputations depend on it.

This article connects a woman’s need to appear to be perfect with the growing incidence of alcoholism in women.  A glass of wine while cooking dinner here.  Another glass watching TV there.  A drink with a friend who lives in another state via Face Time.  It takes the edge off.  It marks a divide between our often stressful day jobs and our stressful night jobs tending the home fires.  I recommend this article to all my sisters.

Perfection is a special issue for the Church. In spite of professing the need for a Savior, many of us Church People need to appear to have our acts together.  Yes, we need a Savior, but not much.

Last Sunday in worship, I witnessed a beautiful tableau of Real Life.  There were men wearing suits and men wearing hoodies.  One was wearing a Batman shirt. There were women in a comparable spectrum of wardrobe choices.

There were older people with walkers and children toddling down the aisle.  Hair colors ranged from gray to purple.  Some people looked all holly jolly and some looked haggard.  Babies cried during the sermon.  Children fidgeted.  Communion was not precisely choreographed.

But it was nice.  It was comforting. It was a perfectly imperfect gathering of God’s people.

Many of us in Church continue to need at least the appearance of having our lives together.  This is old news, of course.

But we continue to hide our worries, passing the peace with our pew mates without daring to share what’s really going on in our lives.  We applaud acquiescent children. We refrain from talking about anger or fear or suffering.  We hesistate sharing about our family member’s imperfections much less our own.

Some imperfections seem almost trendy.  Back to wine:  addictions are increasingly acceptable imperfections because they are so prevalent.  Not so acceptable imperfections include charges of sexual assault and bankrupcy.

How can the Church be genuinely authentic in welcoming the broken while also equipping people to face our brokenness?  It’s tempting to numb out.  But there are better ways.

Does your congregation expect levels of perfection?  What happens when people fail professionally or personnally?  As we continue to move into longer nights this month and as the world itself feels dark, how can the Church be a community that bolsters personal resilience?  It’s just too easy to numb out.

Instead of lulling ourselves to sleep, Advent is the season when we wake up.  Waking up begins by admitting that we need each other.  We need God’s help.  We need to admit our imperfections.  We need to believe that grace is real.

And so we move towards Advent 2 and the very longest night 12-17-12.  I hope it will be the perfect spiritual journey for you.


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