In today’s world there’s an expectation for life to be perfect. If we’re not living in a cloud of contentment, with the perfect marriage, family and home, then there’s something wrong with us. At least that’s the unspoken message behind airbrushed images projected by the media. Whether it’s celebrities bombarding us with pictures of their immaculate homes or everyday folk posting fabricated photos on social media, it’s an illusion. The reality is quite different because no one is perfect and no life is perfect.
Leonard Cohen, the legendary poet and songwriter was an ordained Buddhist monk and spirituality played a central role in his life. He spent ten years writing Anthem, which includes the powerful lyrics….”forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”. Cohen was reminding us that there is no such thing as perfection and that everything is broken, whether it’s a marriage, work or family life. This is a song about hope and it invites us to confront our vulnerabilities and use them for repentance and resurrection. We’re encouraged to make the best of things because life still holds meaning and promise, irrespective of our circumstances.
Unfortunately as a species, we don’t like admitting to shortcomings. We prefer a life of pretence because we learnt (somewhere) that acknowledging our failings is a sign of weakness. Wherever this message originated, it didn’t come from God. We are not perfect. Only God is perfect and this message is repeated throughout scripture. In fact, Sufis are renowned for making deliberate errors in their tapestries, to demonstrate perfection is the preserve of God.
The question then is that if God accepts our imperfect condition, why don’t we? Perhaps we’re embarrassed or ashamed about the less attractive parts of our character. Sometimes, the expectation to conform to a homogenous society can unleash disturbing behaviour, as a coping mechanism. What most would perceive as unacceptable conduct, is often just a cry for help. But, let’s not forget that God can use anything to bring about good. So, universal acceptance that shortcomings are part of the human condition is an excellent starting point. Also, shame and guilt should not be discouraged because they both serve a great purpose. They are catalysts for the breakthrough needed, because it’s only when we confront our behaviour, that we move towards remorse and atonement. And that’s when change happens.
So, let’s take our lead from an Almighty God, rather than a short-sighted world. If God can love us, despite all He knows about us, what greater encouragement do we need to accept ourselves for who we are? Faith is so often about having the courage to speak out and there is nothing braver than being open and honest about who we are. Let’s embrace our flaws and let them transform us. As Richard Rohr said,“We come to God much more by doing things wrong than doing things right”. True, but it’s also in the rubble of an imperfect life that we come to appreciate that wonder still exists.