Perfection or nothing? You get nothing

In church, relationships, spiritual life, and politics, if you insist on perfection or nothing, you get nothing. I learned this valuable lesson as a young mother from Edith Schaeffer, the wife of the late Francis Schaeffer. She told a story about her daughter-in-law who fumed every time her husband was late for a meal. She meticulously planned and prepared delicious meals for her family, investing time, creativity and energy because she knew that this together would bond and strengthen their family. But her husband was a minister and invariably someone side tracked him on his walk home to eat. When he finally arrived to a cold meal and grumpy hungry children, his wife let his tardiness spoil their time together with whining and harsh words. Finally, she determined that she and the children would begin the meal on time, and if he was late, without him.

When I first heard this story, I just knew that her tough stand would result in his punctuality. But alas, it did not. He continued to be late. But they made the best of the situation, and used what time they had to do what good they could.  The time together accumulated into minutes and hours of positive family interaction. His timeliness was out of her control. She traded what was impossible for what was possible, and it was  good enough.

As a recovering perfectionist, I adapted this principle to counter my own meal-time disappointments, and other various Cinderella syndromes that plagued my early years. As my children grew, flew the nest, and face the challenges of raising their own families, I still occasionally struggle with perfectionist tendencies. I can tell that the perfection bug has bit me when I’m obsessed with “ain’t it awful” thinking instead of dealing with the realities of living in a fallen world. My latest struggle resolves around political candidates and my search for the perfect one.

None of them thinks exactly like me. None of them responds perfectly to every challenge or answer questions exactly the way I would. None of them shares my background and lifestyle. None is just right. I hold strong beliefs but no one candidate reflects every single one of my convictions, so I tend to mumble and complain, instead of supporting the one who seems to best reflect the direction I hope our nation will go. And all the polarization and hateful rhetoric hasn’t helped. I’m shut down when it comes to interacting with most people about politics. Maybe they will think I’ve joined one of the hate camps.  All the while, watershed decisions are made by others, and I sit idly by still trying to find Mister or Miss Right.

I’ve decided to back the candidate of my choice despite what people think. He seems to personify the general direction I think we should go. I hope others won’t assume I only listen to one television network or have joined a camp of hate mongers when they see his sticker on my car.

I see good and bad on both sides. I’ve watched all the debates. I’m reading and listening to the different perspectives. and I’m choosing to the best of my ability. It’s not perfect, but this election seems like a fork-in-the-road decision for our nation. So this non-political girl is putting a sign in the yard and voting unashamedly for a non-perfect candidate. Because if you demand perfection or nothing, you get nothing, and sitting around playing “ain’t it awful” could exact a  high price from our children and grandchildren.

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