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August 29, 2008

Perfection Vs. Peace and Contentment

As a little girl I had a Barbie doll. Not one of the many derivatives of Barbie made today, but the very first Barbie. She was made out of hard plastic and had heavily painted eyelids and impossible physical proportions. She had a wardrobe that included a perfectly miniature snap on bra. I loved her. She was perfect.

Like most girls in the 1960s, I played with her for hours. I dreamed of someday growing up to look like her and have her clothes, complete with my very own snap on bra. I wanted to be her and I was certain that being her would make my life perfect, and therefore I would have peace and contentment.

Needless to say I didn't grow up to be Barbie. At four foot eleven I didn't even come close to her stature let alone her bra size. And you can forget about her waist!

But growing up admiring my perfect Barbie and other "perfect" things took its toll.

As an adult I like things to be perfect. I tend to be a perfectionist in many ways. I seek it in my work and in my home. I seek it in the behavior of those around me and expect it from those that work for me. I also expect it as a consumer. And I have to admit if I don't stay tuned to what is really important I can get a little tweaked when things or situations land just shy of perfection. But I am not the only one.

A couple of years ago I was shopping in a large well known toy store chain and noticed a little girl admiring a stack of chocolate bars (yes, they sell candy in toy stores). I watched with interest at the interaction with her mother as she launched into a plea for the treat. Hey, any woman who has been a mother has been there. The mother, clearly tired and just wanting to quiet the whining child, finally, reluctantly gave her permission to get the candy. As if someone flipped a switch the little girl's mood changed from cranky to happy. Then she did something very interesting. Instead of taking a candy from the top of the stack she reached a few bars down the stack and pulled out one from the center. One that hadn't been touched, mussed, or marred. I was dumbfounded at the thought that at such a young age, this little girl was seeking, "perfection".

We all desire the best things, from choosing the milk on the back shelf with the fresher date to wanting the ideal home, ideal spouse, we even shop for the "perfect" place to worship. But when these desires and a culturally ingrained sense of entitlement don't allow room for things like forgiveness then there will also be no room for peace and contentment. Holding tightly onto what we think we deserve can make us forget that blessing that Paul learned, "being content in all situations".

So how does a girl that wanted to be Barbie set aside the notion that peace and contentment don't come from having things "perfect".

As a woman what I really yearn for is holiness but often mistake it for perfection. Perfection is a mere xerox copy of what is holy. A shallow substitute. Perfection is plastic. So why do I often settle for that slightly plastic proxy?

Because it is easier.

Pursuing perfection doesn't require honing a depth of character that the pursuit of holiness requires. Real life is messy and rich with situations that teach us deeper meanings below the plastic coatings if we are willing to embrace the mess. It takes more work and discomfort to dig for what is real (Consider James 1:2). For me as an artist, pursuing perfection instead of holiness can mean the difference between creating art that truly speaks, versus something kinda pretty to hang over your sofa.


It is that moment after you have applied your mascara, and right before you sneeze.

It is the moment after you brought your brand new car home, and right before you back it into a tree. It is fleeting, and often an illusion manufactured by our own hands.

Kinda like my Barbie.

Thankfully, God has so much more for us than the Barbie perfection we might be willing to settle for. The ability to accept myself as beautiful even though I don't look like Barbie, is just a start. True peace and contentment comes by embracing the "less than perfect" aspects of life. This girl will gladly trade what may seem "perfect" for characteristics like graciousness and mercy, a bit of patience now and then, and the ability to forgive.

And besides, that snap-on bra was overrated.

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Fabulous stuff, Blair. Nearly perfect...definitely real life. Thank you.

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