How close to perfection is close enough?


What does a spiritual life look like? That’s been the question nagging me since I started this living spiritual experiment.
Some, especially those of monkish makeup, strive to live spiritually by denying the importance of the material world. They deny the flesh. The body is a shell for the more beautiful and important soul. And if that hunk of meat messes up, pulverize it. As I wrote in my last blog, perfection through discipline is the goal.
Most of us know, however, that we run out of steam and muscle long before we reach a perfect spiritual life.
Others strive for a melding of body and soul in some fluid dance where every action has a bigger purpose. Where body and soul mesh and live at peace, sipping coffee and sharing deep insights together. Though I don’t dance, much to my wife’s chagrin, this would be me.
The trouble is my body keeps stepping on my soul’s toes. Or to use the other metaphor, since I’ve mixed them already, I know, darn sure, my body is ready to get some work done and quit sitting around talking.  Coffee or no coffee.  “Get a travel cup and let’s get moving.”
There is no perfection here either.
Both of these paths are flawed. Because they both hold as their goal perfection.  And they both miss the mark.
They don’t take into account an ancient and unpleasant concept: sin.
Sin is not anyone’s favorite word. We all want to deny its existence, especially personally. Though it’s pretty easy to call out and name in others. At least for me it is. Deny it or not, sin still catches each of us in a half-Nelson and throws us to the mat.
When we hear the word sin we automatically jump to pictures of Hitler and serial killers and TV preachers. And to be sure all are sinners. Me too.
But sin is not only the horrific or personally abhorrent. It is the inability to reach that perfection we all strive for. It is not being able to love enough, not forgiving even when we want to. Sin is, no matter how much I practice, no matter how carefully I aim, no matter how close to the target I stand, missing dead center. Anywhere from a few inches low and to the left to missing the whole damned thing. It’s all the same when striving for perfection. Close, they say, only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Oh yeah, and in government work.
Close does not much count in matters of the soul.
So, what does a spiritual life look like? Not perfection. And not a solo act either. Spiritual living is admitting I can’t achieve perfection and that I need God’s help in even living a meaningful life. It is agreeing with God that I have not and cannot make it on my own.

An electrical box painted like an archery target


A spiritual life, then, is one that revels in God’s mercy and the ability to live each day hitting close enough, because God alone is responsible for perfection.

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