Perfection is one of the scariest words I know

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Several years ago, religious writer Kathleen Norris came up with a book of vocabulary words for the life of faith. She entitled this book Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith. In it, she reflects on some of the words that both fascinated and terrified her as she first began her long and winding road of faith.

“Perfection is one of the scariest words I know”
Norris admits in Amazing Grace.

The good news Norris shares the word perfection as used in the New Testament is that it is not a scary word, so much as a scary translation. The word that has been translated as ‘perfect’ does not mean to set forth an impossible goal, or the perfectionism that would have [us] strive for it at any cost.
It comes from a Latin word meaning complete, whole, entire, fully grown. In its ancient context, it would have meant something more closely connected with mature that what we mean today when we say perfect.

“To be perfect in the sense that Jesus means it make room for growth, for changes that bring us to maturity, to ripeness. To mature is to lose adolescent self-consciousness to be able to make a gift of oneself, as a parent, a teacher, or friend…”

As we come to the end of another academic year and think about how our communities, our families, our peers and our culture often demand perfection of us. May we be reminded that God does not demand human perfection, only faithfulness and that we live our lives in ways that keep us ever attuned to opportunities for growth and change.

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