What if we valued perseverance over being perfect?
Sophia was walking through the forest with her friend Avil. As they were walking and talking she stubbed her toe on a root that had broken through the path. She stumbled and exclaimed her shock and surprise. She regained her footing and they continued walking.
A little bit later, Avil stubbed his toe as well. He cried out and then found another root and stubbed his other toe. When he did, he tripped and skinned his knee. He was distraught and threw himself down the side of a hill where he broke his leg. As rolled down the hill he also skinned his knee. So, he took a rock and broke his other arm.
It didn't take long before Sophia realized that the walk was over.
This parable is ridiculous! Avil (the Hebrew word for fool) is beyond foolish. Nobody would ever stub their toe and then go on to break their leg. Not to mention all the other ridiculous responses he made. Most of us likely see ourselves in Sophia, she stubs her toe and then continues on. That just makes sense, right?
Here's the crazy thing, if I'm honest, Avil is a reflection of me.
Over the years I've tried all kinds of things to lose weight and to pursue physical health.
Without fail, I've fallen short of my “plan.” When I did, I would throw my hands up and say, “Well, I blew it. Might as well enjoy it!” So what would I do? I'd get the famous number two from McDonald's, (two cheeseburgers, large fry, and a Coke) or I'd get a large pizza. I mean, why not? I have messed up the diet anyway.
You see, when it came to pursuing physical health my mindset has been, “perfection or nothing.” If I couldn't be perfect, I might as well just indulge.
There was no in between.
All or nothing.
I can trace this all or nothing approach through my pursuit of emotional health, spiritual health, and relational health too.
Health has always been a goal, a pursuit, something that I sought to attain. So, if I wasn't perfect then I was a failure. If I failed, then why press on?
I was all about perfection over perseverance.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. (Philippians 3:12-14, The Message)”
Paul was someone who was aware of the reality that life isn't a zero sum game. Inherent in what he writes here is the reality that life is a process. Becoming mature in his faith was not something that he was necessarily going to succeed at. It was a journey that he was on.
Notice also, that there was failure baked into what Paul said. Paul seems to be saying, “I fail too! I fall short too! But I press on!”
Perseverance is more important than perfection.
I will never be perfect. I will never have a perfect streak of eating well or exercising or being a good friend or being emotionally fit. But, instead of quitting I need to embrace the way of Sophia and recover my footing and keep hiking.
Something that I think that has been an important lesson is to learn the subtle shift from thinking about health to thinking about fitness.
Mental fitness. Physical fitness. Spiritual fitness. Emotional fitness. Relational fitness.
Fitness doesn't have an end. It's a goal to strive toward but you never really attain it. You never arrive at the end of fitness. So, you keep on pressing on. Straining toward the goal.
No turning back!
If the journey is the goal and the goal is the journey then all we really have is perseverance.
Perfection is not something that we will ever find. If not being perfect derails the journey then I will never be able to move forward.
Because I am on a journey that has no end there is only the option of pressing on. Getting a little better each day. Even when there's a step backward it's not the end. I can regain my footing like Sophia and keep walking.
Perseverance over perfection.