Reflections by Jerry Webber

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Quest for Perfection: Jerrying My World

Jesus' statement in Matthew 5:48 scares a lot of folks, and gives the impression that life-with-God is virtually impossible . . . or at least, impossible to live well.

"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Mostly, the verse has been read as an injunction to moral perfection . . . that there is no sin in God; therefore, there should be no sin in the human. At least that was my interpretation of the verse for a long, long time.

I remember sitting in spiritual direction many years ago with my Roman Catholic spiritual director, a Sister wise in the ways of the Spirit. I was struggling with my humanity, with my sinfulness and my propensity to stumble and fall in the same ways time after time after time. I felt like I was in a rut that I couldn't get out of. And frankly, I felt like a spiritual -- and moral -- failure, all because I could not get through these things. After all, I was supposed to be perfect as a God-follower, because God is perfect.

That Sister did not chastise me. She simply reminded me in a couple of different ways that the position of "God" was filled already, and that my vocation was to be human, not God.

That afternoon almost 20 years ago really was a turning point for me, almost a new beginning. It signaled for me a movement into discovering how to live my own life fully, the one life God has given me and for which God has created me. To be sure, the journey since then has been filled with bumps and false starts, but I have sought through these years to discern the shape of Jerry's life, and what it means to live into the fullness for which God creates and sustains me.

Truly, the word translated "perfect" in the New Testament literally means "whole," or "complete." So the passage is not about moral perfection; rather, it is about living our lives fully or wholly. God is perfectly or completely God. God is the fullness of God, not lacking anything of what it means to be God. Just so, the invitation to each human is to be fully himself or herself as fully as God is God. We are each invited to live our unique, personal fullness on behalf of God and the world.

The early Church, in the centuries just after Jesus, believed, "The glory of God is the human person fully alive." In other words, when a person lives his or her life fully (or "perfectly"), God is glorified.

Maybe I could say it this way: God gods perfectly. God gods completely. God is wholly God.

In the same way, I am invited -- encouraged! -- to jerry my world, to jerry as fully as possible the world in which I live. Can Jerry jerry completely? That is the question for me.

And you? You are invited to brenda your world . . . to richard your world . . . to debra your world . . . to gregg your world . . . to annie your world. Whoever you are, wherever you live, this is the invitation God extends to you . . . not to live as someone else lives, or to measure up to some other external measure for life, but to live fully the one life that God has given you. We are invited, in the Spirit of God, to live a whole life in relationship to self, others and the created world.

God gods perfectly. May you "jerry" -- or whatever your name -- in the same way.

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