O LORD, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me. Israel, hope in the LORD from this time on and forevermore.
Psalm 131 (NRSV)
I am genetically predisposed to be a perfectionist. Unless nurture trumps nature. In that case, I have been well nurtured in the self-destructive arts of over-analyzation and unrealistic expectations. Perfectionism is a tough gig. It is a close cousin to relentlessness and discontent. Fortunately, God puts people in my life who remind me that it’s going to be okay, and that God is so much greater than all my best intentions and worst endeavors. Usually it’s my wife; she’s good at that. Today, though, it was Micah. And David.
First, I threw coffee on Micah (it’s a good thing it wasn’t Julie; she’s not fond of coffee). I was sitting at my dining room table, surrounded by a handful of wonderful books and my green french press, because green is the finest of colors, and the french press is among the finest of inventions. Micah was telling me all about God and the imminent destruction of a couple important cities; then he shifted to talking about Christmas (I know, right? It’s not even Thanksgiving yet!). We were a having a fascinating conversation. Then, suddenly, the strangest thing happened. My coffee cup threw itself across the table. Coffee went everywhere: the table, the chair, the floor. It splashed along the edges of a few of my books. But Micah, he definitely received the worst of it - right there on page 962 of my Bible. No part of Micah is left unstained; Micah is only seven chapters long, and Bible pages are awfully thin. On the plus side, my Bible smells really nice. I have a sad history with coffee spills; Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians bears its own stains from a similar experience.
I may be a perfectionist. But I am a clumsy perfectionist. I try my best. I strive for excellence. But there will always be days when I spill something, hurt someone, trip over my words, fall on my face, or simply get it wrong. Even my deepest and most sincere attempts to understand the sacred, to serve God faithfully, or to make a difference in his kingdom, are inevitably clumsy and awkward. But, today, in Psalm 131, David reminded me that it is okay. Because God is perfect and God is not clumsy. And he is big enough to accommodate my exceptional clumsiness and certain imperfection.
We hear echoes of this beautiful Psalm in the gospels when Jesus says that the kingdom of God belongs to children (Matt. 19, Mark 10, Luke 18). Jesus knows what David knows; a weaned child with his mother has learned to trust in her care. She has always provided what he needs, and he can rest content, knowing that his clumsy attempts to crawl, to walk, to read, to drive, to learn, to understand, to work, to love, and to change the world will all be met with a hand to hold, an encouraging smile, and a rag to clean up the spilled milk, juice, coffee, or tears.
This Autumn, may you rest easy in the arms of the Father, the love of the Son, and the tenderness of the Spirit,