Nothing’s Perfect

You have to begin with the knowledge that there is nothing perfect in this world.

Our job is not to hunt down perfection and live within it. It is to take whatever broken pieces we have found and sew them together as best we can.

—the Rebbe’s response to a girl who wanted to leave her school for what she thought to be a better one.
as related by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Chabad.org

Oh, duh! No, that’s not my Homer Simpson imitation, it’s my “light dawns on marble head” moment and the reason I’m writing this “extra meditation.” I’m going to use the above quoted phrase for tomorrow’s “morning meditation,” but as I was doing one of my obsessive reviews of tomorrow’s blog, trying to find all the typos I will invariably miss, it hit me.

Life isn’t perfect.

I suppose that’s obvious to you and really, it’s obvious to me too, but I spontaneously applied it to something specific in my own context and everything suddenly made sense. Let me explain.

I periodically kvetch about how hard it is to find other people who see things in the world of faith that are even remotely similar to how I see them (although my “morning meditation” for today has attracted some very nice comments). I also complain about my desire for a sense of community, particularly with my wife, and how frustrated I am that what I planned (boy, God must be having a good chuckle right now) doesn’t seem to be working out.

But what did I expect?

It’s not so much the statement that the Rebbe made above (as related by Rabbi Freeman), it’s the circumstances around the statement that made something “click” inside of me.

…the Rebbe’s response to a girl who wanted to leave her school for what she thought to be a better one.

I’ve probably said some variation of this a thousand times to relatives and friends when they’ve told me how life isn’t perfect for them, either. I just find it funny that God chose here and now to give me my “light bulb moment.”

It should have come sooner but I wasn’t paying attention.

I was having a conversation with the Missus the other day, again talking about the possibility of taking a class or two with her at one of the synagogues here in town. Somehow, we got on the topic of intermarried couples and, since she knows I’m reading Rabbi Boteach’s book Kosher Jesus, we talked about the very distinct differences in how Christians and Jews see the world, the Bible, the Messiah, and God. As we were talking, I was reflecting to myself on how one of the reasons I left the “Messianic” movement, at least in terms of physical worship and self-identification, was because I perceived it as a barrier to my joining her in a Jewish worship and study context.

I mentioned to her in our conversation, that I know there are plenty of intermarried couples in both the Reform shul and Chabad communities, and then she said something that stopped me cold. She said those couples were all comprised of one Jewish spouse and one non-religious (specifically non-Christian) spouse. They’re all Jew/Gentile intermarried, but not “mixed-religious couples”.

I see.

I suddenly realized where the barrier is located in my wife getting comfortable including me in her Jewish community. It’s located squarely at the intersection of “Jesus Street” and “Christian Avenue”. In other words (taking my tongue out of my cheek), she really doesn’t want to take her Christian husband into a Jewish synagogue to interact with her Jewish community. The real problem wasn’t just the negative perception many Jews have about Messianics. That’s why my leaving the Messianic community didn’t produce the desired result. My being a Christian is the real problem.

Oh.

Did you ever play “Battleship” when you were a kid? Ever have your fleet sunk? Mine ended up soundly torpedoed and sent swiftly to the bottom of the cold, cold Atlantic.

I was pretty grumpy about it initially. In fact, I’ve been pretty grumpy about it until about thirty minutes ago (as I write this). Then I re-read the Rebbe’s words and the context in which he said them, and realized that if I thought I was going to get my way, I was sadly mistaken. I won’t even say that “life’s not fair,” because I don’t think fairness has anything to do with it. It’s not like I have some sort of “right” here. It was more of a desire to join with my wife at the level of worship and perhaps to take my meager level of Jewish learning up a notch.

That’s not going to happen now. Of course, it’s not like it was owed to me or something. Sure, it would have been nice, but it’s not my right to enter into someone else’s world if I don’t belong there. It’s not so much that I wanted in the Jewish world. I wanted in the Jewish world so I could share my wife’s world with her.

But life’s not perfect. In fact, life has never been perfect, even among those who have served God with outstanding faithfulness, which doesn’t exactly describe me. No perfect life. No perfect people.

The king’s primary function is to dispense justice and righteousness in Israel. Second Samuel 8:15 tells us, “David reigned over all Israel; and David administered justice and righteousness for all his people.” The Psalmist says, “The strength of the King loves justice; You have established equity; You have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.” (Psalm 99:4) When Israel practiced justice and righteousness, she was blessed, but when she strayed from justice and righteousness under the influence of wicked kings, the prophets rebuked her. “I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the level,” (Isaiah 28:17) the LORD declares through the prophet Isaiah. The Psalmist prays for the Davidic King, saying, “Give the king Your judgments (mishpatim), O God, and Your righteousness to the king’s son. May he judge Your people with righteousness and Your afflicted with justice.” (Psalm 72:1-2)

“Righteousness and Justice”
Weekly eDrash
Commentary on Torah Portion Mishpatim
First Fruits of Zion

Israel was the only nation specifically established by God, and given a personal and corporate set of laws and ordinances by which the Hebrews were supposed to obey their Creator as a people. If any country was to have operated with flawless perfection, it should have been Israel, and yet even a casual reading of the Tanakh (Old Testament) tells us that they experienced dramatic swings, from amazing prosperity to bitter and total defeat…and back again. Life wasn’t perfect for the Children of Israel and it isn’t perfect for the Jewish people today. Life isn’t perfect for the church, and certainly it hasn’t been perfect over the past 2,000 years of Christian history.

Why should even this one thing that I ask for be perfect for me? There’s no reason it should be.

Oh, I know the Christian platitudes: “Go bathe it in prayer” and such, but frankly, I’ve seen some of the most faithful people I know end up disappointed in so many ways and still maintain their faith and trust.

I’m not going to “win” this one, but I guess I can’t say that I mind all that much (well, I mind a little). There’s so much else that is going right. My wife and I are together after almost 29 years of marriage. We both are reasonably healthy, we have three children and one grandson. We are fed, and clothed, and housed. We are gainfully employed and are able to meet our needs and a number of our wants. Life isn’t perfect, but it isn’t horrible, either.

Most of all, both my wife and I are relating to God, each in our own way and in our own manner, as Jew and Christian. I’m a really unconventional Christian and she’s not always the typical Jew, but we get by.

Now that this realization has happened, I don’t know what comes next. I don’t have “a plan” anymore. Maybe I’ll finish out my year long experiment here and then “sink” this blog along with my hopes or maybe I won’t. I’ll have to wait and see if God decides to fill in the blanks in my life with something I haven’t anticipated, or if He’ll just let me have blanks in my life for a day, or a week, or a month, or a year or ten.

Right now, I guess I’ll take the Rebbe’s advice, try to find whatever broken pieces of my aspirations that God has left lying around and see if I can patch them together into something that makes some sort of sense.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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18 thoughts on “Nothing’s Perfect”

  1. I suggest you take a different tact because human will power and logic is so limited. Instead of trying to patch the “broken pieces” yourself, let go of them, look forward, and let God renew your life. You have to trust God more to do things. He is limitless in power, but the church has forgotten how to access Him and the blessings of being in His Kingdom. It’s why so many believers have been let down… they don’t know God’s ways, so their expectations don’t line up with reality. The knowledge you need is in the deeper mechanics of His Kingdom… mysteries that He is revealing so all of us, Christian, Jew and Gentile, can walk together towards a common destiny. Please have a look and judge for yourself: http://tinyurl.com/7s2mtze

  2. I appreciate the advice, Ty. I’m kind of uncomfortable clicking on tiny urls since I can’t tell where they lead to, so I used http://www.getlinkinfo.com/ to see the full URL to your article: http://3rdcompass.com/core/network?c=jrnl&obj=4630591947944853480

    I am well aware that there are plenty of things in my life I have no control over and must rely upon God for completely, but my understanding of God is that He also expects us to participate in our own lives. That means we act and interact in order to live out our lives in accordance with His wishes, doing the best we can to understand what those wishes are.

    I don’t think I’m going to have the bandwidth to read the entire transcript of a 50 minute video. Is it possible for you to summarize your points, not only for me, but for others who may come by and read these comments?

    Thanks.

  3. Just watch the video. You will need all the information and how it’s presented to best understand how to follow God by His will. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is infinitely more valuable.

    You don’t need to read the transcript unless you want all the references in the video. If you like to read, you can turn on the captions in the youtube video by clicking on the CC box.

    Let me know if you need any other help with what I’m talking about in the documentary. I’m here to help.

    Ty

  4. “Right now, I guess I’ll take the Rebbe’s advice, try to find whatever broken pieces of my aspirations that God has left lying around and see if I can patch them together into something that makes some sort of sense.”

    You’re in a very good place, James. I’ve followed God for over forty years now and can truly say that I have become deeply satisfied with this uncertain life. I should have known this much early than I did — just reading the psalms should have convinced me that the most passionate, God-filled lives are devoted to pickup up pieces, even thought it be fraught with difficulties, uncertainties, and (yes) disappointments. The trick is to be satisfied with God in the midst of it rather than looking for something that God has not promised us and therefore would not be good for us.

  5. We are called to be content in every situation that comes our way, but don’t let that peace make you complacent to what God wants for His people. We have a much more glorious destiny than people realize. It’s built on His covenant promises, but like I’ve said, the church has lost sight of how to follow God right. It’s important to have the peace of God always, but its even more important not to loose sight of our inheritance in His Kingdom and how to grab hold of it. That requires action because our full inheritance comes through righteousness, which is impossible to attain without action. Righteousness is not a state in itself, but the result of actions you take.

  6. The trick is to be satisfied with God in the midst of it rather than looking for something that God has not promised us and therefore would not be good for us.”

    That is the trick indeed, Carl. The metaphor of a four-year old trying to understand his grandfather doesn’t even begin to cover that the experience of me trying to understand God is like. This is very much like Avot 4:1: Who is rich? He who is satisfied with his lot. And yet, conversely, there is the continual struggle which is typified by Jacob’s struggle with the angel that is also how I see myself interfacting with God. Everything is very dynamic. There’s not a steady, even, “satisfied” sense of our relationship, at least not on my end of things. I sometimes fear if I ever get that settled, I’ll lose my drive to learn and to grow.

  7. @James “There is the continual struggle.”

    Well, of course. By “satisfied” I didn’t mean “complacent!” It took me quite some time to give up on the struggle to reach the fantasy place where there is no struggle. Then the wrestling began.

  8. Oh no, I must fervently disagree with you all. You’re not in the right place, James, nor is the majority of the church. If you watched the documentary, that would be obvious.

    Rebbe’s advice sounds wise, but it is man’s thinking, not God’s. Please take no offense. I’m not belittling anyone or Judaism. It’s just that that kind of view of how we’re supposed to live with God is incorrect as well as self defeating.

    It IS our job to hunt down perfection, but it’s not the kind of perfection you’re thinking of. It’s spiritual perfection, which comes out of growing into real spiritual maturity, which is the product of true righteousness, which the church and the world have incorrect beliefs about. The documentary makes that very plain.

    God has His sight set on spiritual perfection for us, which can only happen if we truly follow His commands and walk in His covenants. The effects of covenants are real. I’ve seen their results first hand and if the effects of just one covenant, like say the New Covenant of Grace, are not real, then what good is it to even talk about this?

    The biggest problem with the church is that she does not see how covenants work, nor that there are many more in effect than that of Grace, nor that their effects seriously affect her even though she may have eternal salvation.

    God’s laws and covenants are very important to understand. They define the righteousness He wants us to attain, so without walking in them, especially the covenants that are not obvious or written in Scripture, the church will remain far from God because of her unrighteousness.

    So again, it isn’t our job to pick up the broken bits. Let God take care of that by letting Him guide you closely. That will only happen if you learn how to follow His Spirit, because your destiny is in His mind and can flow to you through His Spirit, but you and the church must know how to listen. Without the knowledge of how God speaks to us today through anointed servants as wells as individually, the church will continue to misinterpret and totally miss out on the destiny she’s supposed to grab hold of.

    Missing destiny is a reality. The church assumes she will automatically get all the promises of God’s eternal Kingdom, but that is another common misconception. Remember that many Jews missed out on their destiny of coming to the homeland that God promised because they simply rejected what God wanted them to do (Numbers 13-14). Today’s church is doing the same thing, except the “homeland” God is pointing to refers to His new temple, which is defined by the covenants of Brideship.

    It’s God’s wedding plans for us, His people, that we’re supposed to focus on (Matthew 22,25; Revelation 19). Nothing else really matters, because the Brideship covenant of following His Spirit has EVERYTHING else flow out of it. The big difference is we follow God’s direction and design for our destinies instead of stumbling about using our own thinking and focusing on sewing up “broken pieces” that should just be left in the past.

    If this sounds confusing, then watch the video I posted. It helps a lot to get the big picture. Then learn how to grab your wedding garments because they are required to participate in God’s plans of our eternal “homeland” (Matthew 22:11-14). This is not a destiny anyone will want to miss out on, even if you have eternal salvation. Getting “thrown out” (Matthew 22:13) doesn’t mean losing eternal salvation, but it does mean exclusion from participating fully in His Kingdom.

    James, you spoke about how you wanted to be more involved with your wife in your spiritual walks. Well, Brideship is how you can reconcile your spiritual lives together. Both of you will have to throw away your beliefs about God and walk into eternal destiny together. If she doesn’t take that walk, I can guarantee, she won’t be in the same eternity as you because of not fulfilling the first Brideship covenant – that of Grace and being saved into eternity.

    I’m not trying to scare you about this, but trying to set your eyes on the right targets. Set them on Brideship and help your wife and family do the same, because when we take care of the spiritual things first and grab after righteousness, God takes care of everything else (Matthew 6:33). It must be God’s definition of righteousness, though, not the the world’s or the church’s. That’s a big reason why there are many disappointments in the church. She just has all the wrong ideas of how to go after God and His Kingdom.

  9. @Dan: I think I understand the difference. Now it’s a matter of implementing it. I appreciate your concern and compassion.

    @Ty: You said:

    “James, you spoke about how you wanted to be more involved with your wife in your spiritual walks. Well, Brideship is how you can reconcile your spiritual lives together. Both of you will have to throw away your beliefs about God and walk into eternal destiny together. If she doesn’t take that walk, I can guarantee, she won’t be in the same eternity as you because of not fulfilling the first Brideship covenant – that of Grace and being saved into eternity.”

    I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and say you are honestly trying to be helpful, instead of just posting comments for the purpose of advancing your own website and video commentary. However, as the statement I quoted above seems to indicate, you have a lot of chutzpah to tell my wife and I how to conduct our spiritual, marital, and personal affairs. That I share personal details about my life here does not mean I don’t have personal limits and that I won’t set limits on any comments that appear on my blog. Ty, I believe you’ve already said what you came here to say and I’d prefer it if you withheld any further comments (especially lengthy ones) that seem to “demand” that my wife and I adopt your particular perspective. I understand that you have one viewpoint on God and you believe that everyone else has it wrong. You have a right to that opinion. However, I have the right to have the final say on what comments will and won’t appear here.

    I’ve been patient with you, but my patience is at an end. Thanks.

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