Called by Matthew 5:48 to Be Perfect
January 25, 2021
It was a morning full of tantrums, chaos, and consequently, lots of mom guilt. A great friend reminded me to let go of that and I certainly was trying. As I was reading Matthew 5:48, KJV: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” I was given this beautiful nugget of wisdom to put it into perspective:
“What is it…that makes us feel as if being Superwoman is the minimum requirement? We get running so fast and so hard that it’s easy to discover that our priorities in practice are ordered on the principle of what absolutely has to get done today and what can wait until tomorrow, rather than on the principle of what is important and needs to be done today even if it would quite conceivably be physically possible to do it tomorrow…. It is not requisite that I be Superwoman today or tomorrow or ever.” (Beppie Harrison, Plain and Precious pg 11, emphasis added)
These concepts may seem in contrast, but I think they actually support each other.
I believe that we can be guided in our lives by a person larger than ourselves. I’m so grateful to believe in a God that guides my study each morning. He guides me to the things that keep the principles I learn about in perspective. He helps me find balance even as he is pushing me to recognize weakness and be better. There are so many moments, though, when I wish I was something more. I wish I was “perfect.” I wish I was the “perfect” interfaith leader. I wish the world was “perfect.” Often I look at my peers with their amazing degrees and projects; I wonder if I can do something so meaningful. It is so easy to look around me, compare and think, “I am not doing enough.”
Why do I want to be a superhero anyway? Superheroes get shot at. They have to do incredibly hard things. They save the world time and time again with very little thanks usually. Their fight never truly ends, yet they get to change the world. Isn’t that what this incredible work of interfaith is all about? Isn’t it about finding ways to improve the world and create connections instead of conflict? It is an edifying cause filled with light and beauty. It has motivated me throughout life to stretch and push both personal and community boundaries for the better. It has encouraged me to become something more and do things I have never thought I would do. I truly believe that there are few causes so noble.
Ok, so I am crazy enough to want to be a superhero, but do I have to be a superhero all the time? What about the fights that I don’t win? What about when I’m not sure what to fight or how to make the world a better place? There are so many questions that start battling for my attention, but one begins to stand out above the rest. Why do I believe that only superheroes change the world?
My life is changed for the better by thousands of everyday experiences and kindnesses. It was changed this year when my neighbor, knowing I was new to the area, without friends, and struggling as a new mom, invited me to “car lunches” where a few ladies from the neighborhood would circle up the back of their cars so they could open their trunks and talk while their kids social distanced and made silly faces at one other. Additionally, I am rescued every day by medical providers who choose just to show up every day at work, risking personal health and safety to serve others. The little things and the daily drops into the bucket matter. I am learning to accept that in some seasons, my contribution to the cause will be teaching my children how to ask questions or talk respectfully to someone different than themselves. It will be encouraging my husband’s ex-wife as she strives for her new year goals. It will be encouraging my friends and family to consider a different perspective, even when it might not be comfortable. More days than not, it will be reminding myself in a yoga session to let go of the guilt and love myself too.
In 1995, Russell M. Nelson shared this insight, “In Matthew 5:48, the term perfect was translated from the Greek teleios, which means “complete.” (“Perfection Pending”, October 1995, Nelsen). The prefix tele is rooted in the same word and implies distance. Time, distance, space are all important parts of the recipe when it comes to creating something better. I know that all too well as a musician. There’s the old adage that “Practice makes perfect.” However, that is misguided. “Perfect practice makes perfect.” What makes “perfect” practice? The process of time, practice, effort, intention, and patience.
Perhaps in my quest to be something more and contribute to something greater than myself, I can also recognize that I am not being asked to be singular without flaw. I am being asked to make an effort. I am being asked to complete a community and an intention for good wherever I am at. I can choose to recognize that being a whole person is just as important as completing a project. By being whole, I stabilize myself. I create an unshakable foundation to face tough times and I support those around me, especially when I’m not in a position to be the first responder. Sometimes, leading is supporting.
I’m not sure why being “super” is ideal, but I think it’s a real mentality. We all seem to push ourselves to the limits over and over again. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s because we are championing a cause that is so worth it. Even so, not every day has to be a superhero day. Some days I can attempt to shrug off my homemade cape and accept that I’m human. Feel free to join me. Pajamas are welcome.
Keryn Wouden Anderson is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has worked as an interfaith advocate since 2007. She received an IFYC Interfaith Initiative Grant in 2019. She is also a professional harpist and Kindermusik educator, loves all things unicorns, and regularly rock climbs with her family in New Mexico.
American Civic Life
American Civic Life