Our Christmas card photo will be perfect this year. And it’s not only the genius of my photographer daughter-in-law, although this certainly doesn’t hurt. The thing is, last Saturday a miracle happened, and for the first time in the history of Anderson boys every single subject was cooperative and cordial, and that included the dog.
All day long (the day of my big birthday) I savored the experience, revisiting my phone for another peak at our miracle. It’s really us, and it really happened. And all day long, too, we felt like a perfect family. Sitting around the dining room table for a post-photo-shoot brunch, just the eight of us, laughing and lingering and enjoying each other. The whole squad planned little speeches in honor of Mom, and I savored those, too. Words of blessing, genuine and sweet, and me responding. I love you guys. This is perfect.
By Monday we were back to normal, which is to say – not quite perfection. I’d set my alarm for 5am, but by a quarter to four Kyle was up and pacing. Awake and worried about a boy. I gave up sleeping and joined my husband’s morning battle, and we prayed the prayer that’s never failed. You said you’d fight and we believe you still.
A couple of days later I sat feet propped on Luke’s bed and we talked about perfectionism. It’s the nemesis we share, and I tell him I’m sorry. Fifty years God’s been breaking this habit, and He’s not finished yet. A season of freedom, but as soon as the heat’s turned up I’m right back at it, my desperate default.
Luke looks around his bedroom and he laughs out loud. I guess my OCD is only internal. Unlike his mom, whose perfection is practiced on every surface. Constant cleaning of kitchen and bathroom. (Just two spaces in this mostly-mancave I’d like to keep tidy. Is this asking too much?) My birthday gift was a kitchen make-over. After 22 years, replacing green countertops and tile with an updated look. I run my rag over new black leathered granite, not a dish on the counter, appliances shining. A bit of perfection.
I admit it to Luke and he knows it’s true. How all our mad grasping at perfect is really a sign of how broken we are. The enemy’s ploy or our own stubborn pride, either way it’s what robs us of wholeness and rest.
We’ve been talking of freedom, several weeks now at church. Galatians. My favorite. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.* There’s Paul writing his letter two-millennium ago, like he’s talking to me. Who has bewitched you? Are you so foolish? Why this mad grasping for human perfection? Are you doing this still?
The Lord will fight, you only need to be still. Our battle prayer, and there it is. Again. Our sane solution. His fighting, our stillness. Jesus doing for us what we can’t do for ourselves.
We’re broken. I confess it. Every one of us prone to darkness, prone to snapping. Needy. We’re desperate for Him.
I look again at our family photo, and I know it tells our story well. We’re a mess and a miracle all at once. Imperfect but smiling. Even the dog.