In my head, the words I conjure up are unfailingly eloquent. I have things to say, and I know how to say them. My sentences are perfectly arranged, my metaphors all in order, my analogies irreproachable. I get excited, lying in bed with my eyes closed, as I think about all the wonderful ways I can express my thoughts in writing. So I sit up in bed and turn on my laptop, still excited. And I open a blank page, and, well, crap. It's all gone. If I picture my oh-so-beautifully-crafted sentences travelling from my brain down through my head, shoulders, and arms to my fingertips, I imagine they must all get lost somewhere around my elbows and start breaking apart, drifting to my fingertips in fragments of words and phrases that I can't properly piece back together. It's very, very frustrating, and it makes me just not want to try at all much of the time.
I feel the same way about coming home. (Actually, come to think of it, I could probably make this feeling a metaphor for just about anything in life, but since I just got back home three days ago after being away for six months, this is what is on my mind.)
Because I'm away from home for several months at a time during the school year, I always forget, to some degree, what it's like to be here. So in the few weeks leading up to my return, I make fantastically bright plans for how I'll spend my time at home. How I'll show nothing but love and respect to my parents, play with my sisters every minute of my free time, and above all, be patient with every member of my lovable but crazy, drive-me-up-the-wall family. This will be the break that I am able to show them the perfect, flawless example of Christ's love, I think to myself every single time. I get excited, lying in my terrifyingly wobbly bunk bed in Berkeley as I form these laudable intentions. I board a plane, sit in an uncomfortable seat for 12-plus hours, still excited. And then I come home and after just two days I realize how hard it is to carry all these good intentions out. I snap at my dad when he repeats unwelcome advice for the tenth time, and I find myself spending more time with a book than with my sisters. I frustrate myself with my inability to put into perfect action the perfect plan for showing the perfect love to my family.
There's a "but," of course. That "but" is that, ultimately, it's okay. (Not that I snap at my family; no, no, that's not okay. And I have to repent each time.) I'm learning, however slowly and resignedly, the very simple lesson that things will always sound better in my head. Even when it comes to things like loving my family. I'm a very flawed, very incompetent, very sinful human being, and I can't hope to live up to my castle-in-the-sky standards of eloquence and lovingness. But even knowing this, that the way I plan it in my head is not how it will be in life is no reason to stop me, or anyone, from trying. And in the act of simply sitting down in front of my sorely unused blog screen or in front of my younger sisters, words and actions come to life that might not have been part of my plan or even come close to measuring up to my impossible ideals, but that still in some way carry out the same intention behind it all.
The conclusion I inevitably but somewhat abruptly come to is no new, world-shattering revelation, nor do I pretend that anything I've written above is such a thing (or who knows, maybe it is to somebody). Simply the often repeated but for all that still so very true phrase that we are called to excellence, not perfection, which belongs to God. Just as my fears of not meeting my perfect standards in writing and in loving shouldn't stop me from trying in the first place, so my failures to meet them when I do try shouldn't cause me to wallow in frustration or self-condemnation. Especially because I know that, ultimately, I can only love because He first loved me. And this is where my writing-loving analogy breaks down, because I don't have a way of applying 1 John 4:19 to my writing. But hey, this post was only ever going to be perfect in my head anyway.
"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men" (Colossians 3:23).
"I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God's business." - Michael J. Fox