To be flawless, unblemished, immaculate, pristine.
Many of us spend a lifetime striving to meet our own version of this illusive, inaccessible standard.
But what we are really seeking is not something we can see in a mirror or measure with a cord. Rather, we are striving to achieve the unseen. To realize our intangible hope of becoming faultless, whole, clean. Especially in the eyes of others.
But life is messy.
And it always will be.
No matter how hard we try to be perfect, our days are stained with missteps, crooked turns, meandering ways. Our nights are soiled with improvident activities, restlessness, regret.
We are irrevocably imperfect.
Each and every one of us.
We are made from the “dust of the ground,” after all (Genesis 2:7 NLT). And maybe that is why we so quickly forget a simple yet profound truth.
Life grows in the dirt.
In the grime, in the muck, in the mulch of our own imperfections. In the sludge, in the compost, in the manure of our mistakes, our deficiencies, our sin. The trampled soil of real living is where stalks sprout and roots plunge deep.
This is the heart of Proverbs 14:4.
“Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.”
According to this verse, dirt and harvest go hand in hand. The imperfections of people and the work of God’s kingdom cannot be separated. They are bound together by grace.
You see, in God’s eyes, in His hands, you are strong.
Like the ox.
No matter how you feel, no matter the gunk or junk, through eyes of grace God sees you as capable of participating with Him to produce a “large harvest” that can feed you and a host of others too.
But not if you are overly concerned with perfection. And not if you keep away from the field and out of the stable in order to appear spotless, seamless, clean.
God already knows who you are. He knows your weaknesses. He knows your shortcomings, and He is not worried about a little dirt.
Rather, He wants to use you.
To partner with you.
In the dirt, in spite of the dirt, because of the dirt.
Your willingness to courageously plow even with imperfections on display provides the richest, most fertile soil where spiritual food can grow.
So the next time the desire to appear perfect tempts you to stay away from the stable, to steer clear from the work God wants you to do, remember this proverb. Then ask God to remind you just how valuable you are in His eyes.
How significant you are.
How strong you are.
How uniquely hardwired you are with gifts and talents, skills and dreams.
And if you take time to listen, He might surprise you by what He says.
After all, God does not want to plow the field without you. He wants to relish with you in the harvest.
In what areas do you struggle with perfection most? How can you better embrace the messiness of life, knowing God wants to use you anyway?