When I Stopped Being Perfect

by Larry Hatfield

Perfection-what a rarity! Perfect people are scarce. Last year's annual convention of the Faithful Flawless was held in a telephone booth. I hardly knew anyone there. Impeccability without parallel is nearly always the road less traveled.

Being infallible isn't what you think. It's hard to come by and harder still to maintain. Living in a glass house definitely has its drawbacks. Of course, anyone wishing to cast an admiring glance may do so any time he chooses. It's downright tough being flawless and having to constantly condescend.

Unfortunately my state of transcendent bliss was interrupted one day by a Galilean prophet who thundered, "He that is without sin may cast the first stone" (see John 8:7). Until then I hadn't noticed what a heavy bag of rocks I carried. And looking for targets was consuming a considerable chunk of my time.

But what else would you expect from one whose only fault was that he had no fault? My very status of super excellence demanded that I be suspect of others. I was like the Pharisee who is reported to have said, "My son, the whole world is corrupt except me and thee, and sometimes I wonder about thee."

And yet in my concern for others I was never neglectful to pray. Others may be slack, but not I. With class, culture, and deep devotion, I would humbly approach the throne: "God, I thank Thee, that I am not like other men…" (see Luke 18:11).

True to my faith, I would extend my prayers beyond personal boundaries: "God, bless me and my wife, my son John and his wife, us four, no more. Amen." (It always felt so good to concern myself with the needs of others.)

Finally the millstone of perfection became too heavy for my stiff neck. Though I was starched, I never really felt washed. Termites had eaten into the bliss of my paradise. Uneasiness had entered my Eden.

And upon examination I found that my white steed was mounted on a circus carousel. My existence epitomized the proverb: "Blessed are they who go around in circles for verily they shall be called wheels." But I had been too intoxicated by the music of self-praise to care and too blind to see.

Then I saw myself in contrast with true Perfection hanging on a cross. The comparison made me shudder. I realized that self-made perfection is only a deception. The very idea was utopian nonsense. I was living a fraudulent existence divorced from reality. One look at the holiness of God shattered my haughty self-image.

Then I prayed a new prayer: "God be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13). Along with that prayer I learned a valuable lesson: "For by grace are ye saved…and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). I'm enjoying my discovery. Life isn't such a burden now that the pressure to be perfect is off. I'm no longer isolated on a pedestal since I see myself and others in the light of His grace. Things are so much better since removing the beam from my eyes. Other's faults now seem so remote I hardly ever notice.

It was quite a step down when I realized I wasn't perfect. But it was a step in the right direction.

Larry Hatfield
Pentecostal Evangel