Magazines, books, Bible studies, billboards, commercials: They all create pictures of the "ideal" in our minds- the ideal schedule, the ideal body, the ideal home, the ideal relationship, the ideal spiritual walk.
While we all know deep-down that the ideal is unattainable, its image still moves us and shapes our lives. Some of us strive to get as close to the ideal as we can, destroying our peace and calm in the process. Some figure we're so far from it that it's really not even worth trying-we become paralyzed by the tyranny of the ideal. And all of us have probably spent some time swinging in between the two extremes.
The fact is that, no matter how close to the ideal we come, something can always come along and wreck it. Becoming a single parent shattered, for me, my striving for a "perfect" family situation. But, really, all it did was illustrate a very important point: perfection in this life is an illusion. Nothing will ever be perfect: not the house, not the people we love, not the church, and definitely not the government. The house will get messy. The kids will get sick. People at church will sin. We will be thoughtless.
So now that we've established that, we really should just give up. Bring out the chips and flip on the TV. Perfection is unattainable, so let's all be comfortable.
No, I'm happy to report that all hope is not lost. Life, although it is not about perfection, is most definitely about forward movement. Just because things can't be perfect doesn't mean they can't be better. And the same goes for us: Just because we can't be perfect doesn't mean we can't be better. It's easy to use the ideal as an excuse. "I could never eat a perfect diet. Pass me that third piece of cake." "I'll never be one of those Bible scholars. Let's watch a movie." "I could never run a marathon. I'm going to take a nap."
We'll never mature, our lives will never improve, unless we take the first step. Put down the cake and pick up an apple. Open that Bible. Go for a walk. Life is all about moving forward. We need to do hard things so that we can grow.
Peter tells us that God's divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3) Think about it: EVERYTHING. How does that work itself out practically in the little areas of our lives? Are we living like people who have "exceedingly great and precious promises," who are "partakers of the divine nature?" (v.4)
God has put us in the race of life, and we should run it well. Though Paul admitted that he was not "already perfected," he forged ahead: "forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 3:13-14)
So, take the first step. Be better, not perfect. Keep moving.