Be Ye Perfect
by Hannah Keeley
I did it again.
I yelled at my kid. It was over something stupid, really, as most of my mistakes seem to be. He was cleaning the dining room and decided to try using his feet to pick up the bottle of ketchup. I told him not to. He said, ‘It’s just trash, mom,” and kept on trying to pick it up with his feet. See? I told you it was stupid!
Being the eternal cheapskate that I am, I knew there was some ketchup left in there and really didn’t feel like having the bottle fondled with my son’s foot. I raised my voice to him. He argued back. Then it all broke loose when my oldest daughter chimes in and says, “Mom, it’s just trash. You don’t need to yell at him.”
That’s all I could take. I sent them both into the office. I lectured my son on being obedient. I lectured my daughter on being respectful. Then she said something that cut me to the core…
“I’m sorry I wasn’t being respectful,” she said. “But you didn’t have to raise your voice. I just don’t think Jesus would have yelled about something like that.”
She was right. Jesus wouldn’t have yelled. He wouldn’t have raised His voice over something as stupid as a foot-fondled ketchup bottle.
And once again I am reminded that I am human; and as much as my spirit longs to live righteously and soar to the heavens, my nature digs in its heels and grovels in sin. I mess up. I fall down. I long to bask in the holiness of God, but too often find myself huddled in the dark corner of my own humanity. I make stupid mistakes. I….sin. At first, I didn’t even want to write about this topic. My pride was telling me to hold back. But my prayer is that my honesty will bless you in a way that my knowledge never could.
Jesus said a phrase during his Sermon on the Mount that haunts me like the Serenity Prayer haunts an alcoholic. He said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Not too high of a demand, right? Hey, just be like God and everything will be cool. Yes, God is perfect; and, no, I am not.
I look around at the piled-up laundry, the homeschool lesson plans that I never filled out last week, the stack of mail I didn’t go through yesterday, and realize how drastically far from perfect I really am. I think about the times I’ve yelled at my kids, talked unworthily about someone, or failed to be there for a friend, and grieve at my own sinful nature. I consider the times I bowed my head in prayer and let my mind wander to the errands I had to run that day, or the days I fasted to grow closer to God and ended up eating a cheese quesadilla by 2pm. Sometimes I think Jesus is making that face that I catch myself making at my own kids–the tight-lipped frown, the furrowed brow, the slow shaking of your head, subtly letting your child know that once again, you’re disappointed.
But then Jesus takes me aside. “Remember,” He whispers.
That evening, when we had our devotion around the dinner table (before the yelling incident), we read the first chapter of Colossians. At the end of the chapter, there were these two verses:
“Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.” I Col. 28,29.
Being perfect is not the lifestyle. It’s the goal. It is the end that Paul so strenuously contended for, not the way he lived every day. Like the runner trying to beat the best time, he trains every single day–sometimes hitting the mark and sometimes falling way short. But the point is, he keeps training.
We’re all in training. This is the beauty of perfection in Christ. The amplified version of Matthew 5:48 goes like this: “You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The key word there? Growing. No, I’m not where I need to be in my Christian walk; but, thank God I’m not where I was. It’s the goal I’m shooting for. And if I’ve learned anything by now, it’s that my power and strength can do nothing. If there’s no God, it’s no good.
Paul also said it wasn’t his own energy he was relying upon. It was the power of God working through him. I wonder how many times I’ve stepped out to live righteously in my own power, with white knuckles and my teeth firmly clenched. Then, flesh conquers spirit and I fall on my face.
But, it is not my spirit I need. It is His.
When we truly seek God, He has a way of working all the kinks out. When we let Him pour His Spirit through us, He cleanses us. He purifies us with His holy power. Those are glorious words, but I still have the lingering taste of cheese quesedilla in my mouth and am brutally confronted by my sinful nature at every turn.
Then I find myself on my knees again. But instead of thinking about my errands, I am in tears. Once again begging my Lord and Savior to fill those empty places, to forgive my stupidity, to burn off all the chaff and make me usable.
And once again, His grace pours down. His mercy bathes me. He quietly pulls me out of that dark corner and sets me to bask in His holiness again. No tight-lipped frown, no furrowed brow, no shaking head. Just a soft smile and an outstretched hand.
No, I’m not perfect. But He is. Thank God, He is. And in His perfection, He is guiding me at every turn I make, even the wrong ones.
Hannah Keeley was once in overwhelmed mom living in a cluttered house, deep in debt, out of shape, and barely hanging on. But one day, after finding herself sobbing uncontrollably into a pile of clean laundry, she realized God has bigger and better plans for her (just like He does for each one of His children). Beginning that day, she began making changes in her life that took her from overwhelmed to overjoyed. Today, she’s helping moms do the same. Hannah, her husband, Blair, and their seven children live in Richmond, Virginia, and are having the time of their lives!