by Johannes Tjendro
You might have been ticked off by Star-Lord when he loses his cool in the recent Avengers movie. If only he’d been more patient. If only he were a more perfect person.
It turns out that the guy behind this character we love to hate has something to say about being imperfect. In his acceptance speech for the MTV’s Generation Award, Chris Pratt spoke about the reality of God’s love and urged us to live by His grace.
“Nobody is perfect. People are going to tell you that you’re perfect just the way you are. You’re not! You are imperfect. You always will be. But there is a powerful force that designed you that way. And if you’re willing to accept that, then you will have grace. And grace is a gift. And like the freedom we enjoy in this country, that grace was paid for with somebody else’s blood. Do not forget it. Don’t take it for granted.”
“Mindblown” doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt when I watched him speak so boldly about his faith. Finally, someone with the guts to say it as it is! I thought to myself. His message cuts through the noise that fills up so much of our lives and speaks the truth of who we are: beloved. Broken and sinful, but forgiven and continuously made whole. Imperfect, yet called and empowered to reach for perfection (Mt 5:48).
As Michelle shared in her story Finding Beauty in Our Brokenness: “We often get caught up in the belief that we are more lovable only when we have a perfect exterior. But God loves us for who we are, through our brokenness and imperfections.” Adding on to that, Scripture says: “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” (Rm 5:8)
In her conviction, Michelle claimed that: “God gave His one and only Son, Jesus, to be broken so that He could meet us in our brokenness; so that we can live the fullness of life in Christ.” So the end game here is not our brokenness or imperfection, but the fulness of life in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.
To be Perfect is to be Loved
Indeed, our first vocation is toward holiness. It is for this purpose that we were created: to become sons and daughters of God who are made in His very own image. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Mt 5:48) Jesus commanded us. Thus, perfection does not lie in being flawless, but in being rooted in our identities as the beloved one of God.
As God’s image, each of us reveals a unique face of God’s divinity. We are not God, but our beings speak of who God is. Just like a beautiful iconography, we point to the truth of His goodness. In fact, we are more than just icons since we are created not by human hands, but by the very hands of God, such that even the hairs of our head are all counted (Luke 12:7).
The difficult part is in reconciling our imperfections with the seemingly high bar that God has set for us. We might like to think that because we are created in God’s image, we should be getting things right from the onset. This is but our own human thinking, and with much humility we can see that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” (1 Cor 3:19)
The mystery of our lives is that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor 12:9). And thus the ways we image God are deeply interlinked with the ways we are broken. The cracks in the earthen vessels of our soul are the very windows that let out rays of God’s light into the world.
The Beloved Lives by Grace
This was one of the greatest lessons that God taught me at the recent School of Christian Leadership (SOCL), where I served as a cell group facilitator. I came into the school overwhelmed by guilt over my sins. I felt completely inadequate to attend the School, let alone to serve my brothers and sisters who were going to participate in the School.
Whenever I served in ministry, I always felt like I had to be doing well in my faith journey. Thus, from the outset God challenged this very notion and called me to serve precisely at a time when I was not feeling okay. God was doing a wonderful thing in my life. He was teaching me to be teachable. All along, I had been relying on my own wisdom and strength to serve my brothers and sisters. Thus, in my ministry I often experienced burnouts and disappointments when I felt that my service was not sufficiently given recognition. And now, God challenged me to serve Him simply for love of Him.
I gave in and fell right into His arms. As a facilitator, I chose to fully participate in the School, knowing that I needed to be discipled by the Lord once again. Through the teaching and sharing sessions, para-liturgy, and prayer ministry, I was being affirmed of my identity in Jesus Christ. And it was because I recognised that I too was a work in progress that God gave me the grace to empathise with the participants and to meet them where they were.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” (Eph 2:8-10)
I realised then how much God truly loves me, and how patient He is with my faltering steps toward Him. During SOCL and even in these days where I continue to reach out to others, God continues to challenge me to expand my heart and offer His mercy toward His children. This requires supernatural compassion that I, by my own strength, cannot give. So whenever I struggle to see and love my brothers and sisters as God does, the Holy Spirit would remind me to pray (Jn 14:26) and helps me to pray (Rm 8:26).
The Journey Home
At the end of the day, only one thing is important: to sit at the Lord’s feet and listen to His word, just as Martha’s sister, Mary did (Lk 10:39). For me, God chose to use my struggle with sin to lead me to His heart. The beautiful paradox of Christianity is that Jesus sends us out to make us worthy of dining in the Father’s house. And in my journey home, the Holy Spirit is my companion and Mary is my example in her perfect obedience to the Spirit.
The spiritual writer Henri Nouwen intimates the nature of this journey home in his book The Inner Voice of Love: “Think about Jesus. He made His journey and asked His disciples to follow Him even where they would rather not go. The journey you are choosing is Jesus’ journey, and whether or not you are fully aware of it, you are also asking your brothers and sisters to follow you. Somewhere you already know that what you are living now will not leave other members of the community untouched. Your choices also call your friends to make new choices.”
My humble hope is that my life in Christ has inspired and will continue to inspire others to give their lives to the One who can and will love them fully. My heart breaks to see God’s children falling for the counterfeit loves of this world. I can only help them by remaining steadfast in my ascent to the mountain of the Lord (Ps 24:3-4), by letting the blood of Jesus clean my hands and purify my heart.
Jesus says to the disciples and to us: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places… And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” (Jn 14:2-3) Brothers and sisters, I urge you to join me in this journey home, where we will take our places as sons and daughters made whole by the perfect love of God.
Read Michelle’s story here.