2013-06-03

The Perfectly Imperfect Journey



"Although Christ was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God as something to be held onto, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant..." [Philippians 2:6-7]

The perfect journey. The perfect meal. The perfect destination. We throw the word "perfect" around a great deal to signify our search for something or someone that is without flaw, without taint, without regret. At the very heart of human existence is a yearning for a transcendent experience or relationship that will somehow complete us and leave us without yearning or need. One of the reasons why we journey, in fact, is to seek such an experience. We want to leave the mundane, imperfect world we inhabit and find somewhere that is, well, perfect.

But what we often find is that our journeys are not perfect.
At least not in the sense that they match our often sterile expectations of perfection. The bed is too soft. The weather is too hot or too humid. The hike was too hard. The food doesn't taste like we expected. We had to wait way too long for that (fill in the blank). And where can I find a Starbucks to get a decent cup of coffee in this town?!?

So many times as we journey to find "perfection", we find just the opposite. In fact, we are faced with the same imperfections and frustrations that nag at us back "at home". And what is our response? Plan another journey, seek another experience to try and fulfill our yearning for perfection.

We even use "perfection" to describe our final journey, our ultimate destiny, in the presence of God. After all, we reason, "God is perfect". And no doubt God is the fullness of all we could hope for: Without flaw, without taint, without regret. But if we follow Jesus as the ultimate manifestation of who God is, we find something paradoxical, something that may even disturb us:

God doesn't seem to care too much about God's own perfection.

In fact, in the central event of all human History, the incarnation of God in Jesus, God empties out his perfection to take upon himself human nature and become a servant of all humanity. God leaves the perfection of heaven to journey through the messiness of life with us, because God finds something beautiful, something irreplaceable about the imperfection of human life. Because it is our very imperfection, our messiness that makes it possible to share genuine love with each other. It is our need that allows us to give ourselves to one another, and experience that which is most definitely Godlike: To empty ourselves to serve one another in the pattern of Jesus.

In fact, perhaps what we find in Jesus might cause us to radically re-define the kind of "perfection" we desire. Because maybe most of our ideas of "perfect" are not perfect, but rather plastic, lifeless, hollow, shallow, and even self serving. Perhaps what is perfect is not perfect pleasure or perfect comfort, but perfect self-giving love. And perhaps the perfect journey is one with bumps and bruises, setbacks and hang ups, where we have the opportunity to deeply engage with those we journey with, and become fully present to the place we are actually at (instead of wishing it was something different). Perhaps it is in God's gifts of messiness and need and even frustration that we will definitively encounter Christ: The God who emptied his perfection to give himself for us.

This summer, as you journey, I wish for you to have a perfect journey: An incarnationally perfect journey. May God give you just enough imperfection that you have to empty yourself and deeply engage where you go, and who you go with. And may you find in the imperfections of your perfect journey a new experience of God incarnate.

[Note: This was prepared as a meditation on TMI's 2013 Belize Mission trip in conjunction with Wondervoyage Missions.]
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This is a bunch of stuff to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against him, and his incredible grace to heal and restore us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2015 by Nathan L. Bostian so if you use it, cite me... otherwise you break the 8th commandment, and make God unhappy. You can contact the author by posting a comment.