Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. ~ Matthew 5:48
The young newlyweds got married in a mountain meadow surrounded by ancient yet young ponderosa pine, blue skies touching the earth, and blades of green grass reaching towards the sun. Friends and family from across the country and even a few international guests arrived to celebrate new life and love everlasting.
While walking down the dirt path to the meadow, the family matriarch and her sister saw two coiled rattlesnakes basking in the morning sun. Fortunately, the snakes disappeared into the tall grass, but all the guests were on alert. Aunt Thelma told the bride and groom, “If you have two rattlesnakes at your wedding, it’s a sign that you’re going to have at least ten children.”
Uncle Roy, Thelma’s husband said, “It’s a sign that you should get married in a church where it’s safe.” The newlyweds laughed; nothing could disturb their peace, their love.
The guests gathered in a circle around the couple and the minister to show their unbroken support and solidarity and to keep any uninvited guests that rattled and hissed outside. After prayers, singing songs, and exchanging vows, the minister took off his green stole and wrapped it gently and firmly around the bride and groom’s hands. He clasped his hands around their hands. Parents, grandparents, friends, and family placed their hands on the newly married couple as well. The minister prayed, “May this relationship be rooted and grounded in God’s never endling love and grace. May love pour from them like a mighty river. May they walk through the storms of life hand in hand. And whether they have no children, one child, or ten children, may they have patience, kindness, and forgiveness for one another.”
And then he raised his voice. “What God has joined together, let no one separate. Amen.” A chorus of “amens” followed. It was beautiful.
The little kids, against their parents’ warnings, ran off to look for snakes. Uncle Bill, the farmer who spent most of his life outdoors in nature, saw a big snake disappearing into a hole. He reached his hand into the hole and pulled the snake out by its tail. It quickly coiled around his arm and Uncle Bill raised his arm with the big snake on it and with his off hand, he held the snake behind its head. To anyone with ears to hear, Uncle Bill yelled, “It’s just a bull snake. You don’t have to be scared of a bull snake.”
The kids gathered around old Uncle Bill. Their parents yelled, “Get away from that snake!” Uncle Bill, a WWII vet and former prisoner of war, said, “Sure you can pet him. Just don’t pet his head. He might bite.”
After the hubbub died down and everyone went through the receiving line, plenty of pictures were taken of the smiling bride and groom with every combination possible of parents, grandparents, cousins, and friends, but no one took a picture of the snake or Aunt Thelma who nearly fainted because she was sure that Uncle Bill’s bull snake was indeed a rattlesnake.
At the reception everyone laughed, smiled, and offered their blessings to the newlyweds. “You are a match made in heaven.” “The love you two share inspires me.” “I still think you’ll have at least ten children.” “You will have a wonderful life together.”
The matriarch said, “I love you all, and don’t give up.” The newlyweds scratched their heads. “What did Grandma mean by that?” Their best friends made toasts to their enduring love.
Late that night, long after everyone had left, the groom lay awake next to his bride. He thought, “Am I good enough for her? What about my temper? What if I can’t meet her needs? What happens if I mess up? Will she still love me?”
We struggle with feelings of inadequacy. Anna Blaman writes, “We think we never do enough, and what we do is never done well enough. I am constantly dwelling in my human failings.”
Yet Jesus loves imperfect people. The disciples argue, abandon Jesus, and they just don’t get him, but Jesus continues to love and to forgive imperfect people. Rohr writes, “If we expect or need people (including ourselves) to be perfect or even to our liking, we have created a certain plan for a very unhappy life. Nobody does it perfectly and accepting this, our innate shortcomings, can bring us to a healthy humility.” We become less judgmental and more accepting and loving.
Jesus says, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Ronald Rolheiser writes, “For the Hebrews, to be perfect simply means to walk with God, despite our flaws. Perfection means being in the divine presence even though we are not perfectly whole, good, true, or beautiful.” “True perfection is the ability to include imperfection,” say Rohr.
The newlyweds struggled and over the years they learned to love one another with all their flaws. “We cannot wait for things to be totally perfect to fall in love with them, or we will never love anything or anyone,” writes Rohr.
May we embrace the freedom and the joy of loving beautiful and imperfect people, including ourselves. Amen.