Are you perfect? Without seeing the words leap from this page to your brain, I expect your response is "no." Like you, I have flaws.
People are getting killed in America’s schools, and I complain about education options in Antigua and Barbuda. I live where the threat of a mass school shooting is almost null. Individualistic perspectives inflate problems.
On most days, my discipline is on point. I write, exercise, and meet all professional and personal responsibilities. But some days, transitions between activities buffer, and procrastination prevents loading the next project.
I make poor money decisions. Things that I want receive precedence over needs. My list of flaws could fill this entire blog post but don't worry; I won't do that to you.
Three examples of imperfect thoughts and actions are enough.
How many ways can you count your imperfections? The exercise supports humility. But, work on your list later and keep reading because the tone of this piece improves.
Over the last few months, my friend and I exchanged books. The titles I received included copies of Andrew Farley’s books, The Perfect You and God Without Religion. These two disrupted almost everything I have learned about religion and God since childhood.
How do you separate religion from spirituality? Are they crucial to forming a perfect relationship with a Creator?
In the Farley books, The Perfect You, and God Without Religion, he posits that churches often misinterpret the grace message of Christ. Instead, they emphasize rules and restrictions. Preachers preach perfection.
As a preacher’s kid, Farley’s arguments resonated with me. I grew up in a Christian domination that values polished appearances. So every Sunday, I wore my best outfit to church services and attempted to behave like I had home training in front of the Saints.
On most days, I met my parents and the congregation’s expectations. I had a fresh haircut, a clean suit, and a calm demeanor while I sat in the sanctuary and listened to my father's sermons. But on some weeks, I wished services would never end because I broke the rules, and punishment awaited me at home.
How often do we prolong the consequences of our imperfect actions?
From these early religious experiences and others, I learned the never-ending goal of striving to be more.
"Be more like Christ.
“Be more like your dad.”
“Be more like the church elders.”
Like my earlier imperfection list, the “be more” list could stretch to the end of this post.
Chapters in Farley’s books support a perfect you through Christ’s redemptive love. He suggests that self-improvement is unnecessary with belief in Jesus and God’s grace. The obsession with sin and “good” behaviors ends when we move beyond shallow religious teachings to deeper spiritual relationships with God.
This idea that religion is a gateway to spirituality is interesting. In my book, Dear Brother, I explored it and discussed how life abroad influenced my faith.
What if we considered places of worship as the physical structures responsible for our foundational beliefs? Could houses of religion offer shelter to facilitate perfect connections to God? Maybe.
Some may need to experience life outside to tap into their spiritual essence. The Yoruba describe and call that ability as Ase. In martial arts communities, practitioners refer to an internal strength where energy manifests as Chi or Axé. Some don’t know what to label intimacy with a Higher Power and claim an agnostic belief system.
Regardless of our intellectual, physical, and spiritual capacities, it's hard to make sense of senseless violence. Unfortunately, the Tennessee school shooting is another example of our imperfections as human beings. Probability predicts we will learn about another mass homicide event before 2023 ends.
I pray it doesn’t happen in your community.
Death is an unavoidable aspect of an imperfect life. Perhaps, we should lower our standards and embrace perfection as being alive with opportunities to experience triumphs and tragedies.
Let me take you back to an earlier question. What do you call God, religion, or spirituality? That's something for you to contemplate this weekend.
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