Peace Available, No Perfection Required

Work for it.  Earn it.  Accomplish it.  Get it done.

Those are philosophies that are so deeply ingrained into my head, my heart and my life.  I am all about moving tasks from the to do list to the completed list.  I work vigorously and exhaustively to get that list finished, only to find that I am some sort of task seeking blood hound who is always, always, always, finding more to add to the list.  It’s a never ending process.

Along with it comes this delusion of grandeur that I must achieve a completed task list before I can find peace.  It’s the ultimate wild goose chase; seeking perfection.

There are so many messages in the world around us that reinforce this ideal, always striving for more, yet at every level of more there is one more step beyond that.  Graduate high school, then go to college.  Get a degree, go on for a Master’s degree, get a Doctorate degree, get any of the associated designations in your specific field to add some more letters behind your title.  Pretty soon it just becomes a bowl of alphabet soup.  Believe me, I know I have personally chased this stuff with great vigor.

That’s just one example.  There are so many more.  Chasing wealth.  Pursuing perfect relationships.  Hunting for fame and acclaim.  Running after the ideal body.

All of it does not bring peace.  It did not bring me peace, I still was frantically striving for perfection hoping peace would be the outcome.  Perfection is not just a lofty goal, it is an unattainable illusion.

Peace on the other hand, is available in endless quantities as a gift to us.

Sign

Sounds too good to be true, right?  Can’t possibly be.  Must be a gimmick.

Jesus himself says in John 14:27 (NIV) “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Do not be afraid.”  

Read those words again, slower please. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Do not be afraid.”

How many of us have found our hearts troubled over something that we are seeking but not finding?  A troubled heart.  From my experience, I would say that a troubled and fearful heart can be a symptom of chasing after perfection.  Also a weary heart and maybe even a bitter heart as well.

This passage had me asking myself two questions.

  1. How does the world give?
  2. How does Jesus give?

How does the world give?

It seems to me that the world is always asking something of me first.  It is asking me to prove myself first, to show that I deserve it first.  I have to earn it first, to work for it first.  To give some first, then give some more, then do even better, then give above and beyond.  The world holds a big beautiful carrot out in front of our noses and we press on in an attempt to get it, but when we think we have gone the distance we are not given the carrot but instead a pile of peeled carrot skins.

It is easy to think that eventually we will get there, and that when we do we will find satisfaction and peace.

Now I am not saying that we should not work at all.  I think we should give generously of our time, talents and treasures.  I think it is very important to have a good work ethic and to be involved in the lives of others in the community.  I think we should serve and help however we can.  What I am saying is that what we focus on and what we assume the outcome of our achievement will be can be deceptive.

How does Jesus give?

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Do not be afraid.” John 14:27 (NIV)

Breathe in deep, and then exhale with deep release.  Now do it again with your eyes closed.

Jesus does not give as the world gives.  Jesus does not hold a golden carrot in front of us and then swap it out for dirty peelings.  The way that I envision Jesus, is sitting quietly at the table with a whole array of vegetables and a nice glass of ice water.  He graciously invites us to come, to sit, to taste and to see that He is good.

He allows us to freely partake, to savor and even enjoy what is before us.  Probably with some laughs, a bit of comfort and a little encouragement.  Maybe we even shed a few tears.  Somehow all the things we “should” be frantically attending to melt away and peace remains.

Then, when we are filled by both peace and nourishment, Jesus calls us to work with Him.  Not whipping us from behind to chase that carrot faster, but following in His steps and walking by His side.  That is the way that I think of Jesus giving.

Did you happen to notice this phrase, “my peace I give you“?  I have never really thought about what that meant.  Jesus said, “MY PEACE.”   The peace that Jesus has.

Jesus who slept in the boat during a furious storm with frantic disciples (Matthew 8:23-27).  Jesus who calmly gave directions when feeding 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish (Mark 6:30-44).  Jesus who directly faced and drove out demons by speaking sternly (Luke 4:33-37).  Jesus who held those with debilitating and contagious diseases (Luke 5:12-14).  Jesus who loved us that He would lay down His own life, in horrific crucifixion, to show the greatness of His love for us (John 15:9-17).

The peace of Jesus.  That is what He said He would give to us, His peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Do not be afraid.” John 14:27 (NIV)

It does not say that we must earn it, work for it, accomplish anything to get it.  Jesus says He leaves it with us.  He gives it to us.  No perfection required.  That condition has already been met.  Jesus is perfect.  He knows that we are not, so He does not even ask us to attempt to be perfect.  Out of His goodness, generosity and love for us Jesus does not even bring up perfection.  Jesus is not quoted as saying, “practice makes perfect, keep working on it.”  He says “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.

Jesus isn’t the only one who gives

Jesus says in John 14:26 (NIV), “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”  

Jesus gives His peace.  The Father gives the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit gives us teachings and reminds us of the scriptures.  That’s a whole lot of giving going on.

What are we looking for?

As I have been meditating on this over the past week, I have been staring at my calendar and my to do list.  It is a pretty crazy week for me, each calendar item branches out into what feels like hundreds of responsibilities, contingencies and decisions.  I had to ask myself last night.

Am I standing in the world’s long waiting line hoping for a serving of success and acclaim, in suspense that someone will discover that I do not have a valid certification of perfection to my name?

Or am I sitting at the table of the Lord, enjoying the feast and preparing to go to God’s fields to work where “those who go out weeping, carrying seeds to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.” (Psalm 126:6 NIV)?

Am I seeking perfection or am I seeking peace?

That’s a question which I find I would rather not ask myself.  Because, asking myself this question means I have to take a good honest look at myself and my actions.  The answer involves admitting that I am not perfect.  It also involves a humble confession that I am not even close.  I, truthfully, have hardly made progress on my greatest struggles.

As much of a mess as I am, a mess as my house is, a mess as my unfinished tasks are, as messy as my current to-do list is, the message I received this morning was that progress was not require for me to have peace.  This sent me into a state near shock.  I was rejoicing greatly over the thought of peace being available even if I was not perfect.  Then the Lord tells me that I don’t even need to make progress before I can receive peace.  That sounds just plain crazy or amazingly awesome!

I had to have a smile and a small giggle over that.  As a quick montage of the Bible stories plays in my mind, I think, “yes, God is plain crazy and amazingly awesome from my perspective.”

I really feel like this is the point where I should probably ask you, my dear reader, are you seeking perfection or progress or peace?  But, I need you to know.  I don’t really want to ask you that question.  I didn’t want to ask myself that question.  I was afraid of the answer that I would find.  I was afraid that I would find shame and guilt and regret and sadness.  Those are the last things that I would want for you.

I want you to find hope and love.  I wish for you lavish blessings of goodness that lead to glorious praise and thanksgiving.  I desire deep encouragement for you that would uplift you and bring you joy.  I long for you to have peace.  Just as I long for peace.

I have been so blessed out of asking this hard question of myself, that is the only reason I pose it to you.  Are you seeking perfection or peace?

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Do not be afraid.” John 14:27 (NIV)

Peace is available to you.  No perfection required.

Amazing and Beloved Lord,

You are plain crazy and amazingly awesome!  I just want to ask You why You would give Your peace to me.  This peace that I can not even comprehend.  Why do You want to do that for me?  I ask, but I already know the answer. 

Because You love me.  You love with an unending and undying love.  You love me in a way that does not require me to be perfect and that does not even require me to be making forward progress.  Your love always offers me an invitation to Your table, extends opportunities to employ the skills that You have designed me with, and rewards my heart, my soul, my mind, and my strength.  

Lord, I pray that each of my dear and precious readers would experience Your plain crazy and amazingly awesome love for each of them.  May they see that what You have in store for them is so much better than what the world has in store for them.  Help them to take them time with You, to be still and receive peace.  This is so hard to do when the tasks, responsibilities and assignments are shouting to be given our priority attention.  Bless them with peace Lord, even in the hardest of circumstances.

Help us all to seek Your peace, to receive it fully and to always carry it with us like a child carries their favorite blanket.  May we know that Your peace for us and Your love for us will never wear out or be lost.

In the peace filled name of Jesus, amen.  

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2 comments

  1. Thnaks for sharing this! I especially love–a troubled and fearful heart my be a symptom of chasing after perfection….wow, awesome! Maybe I can use on my quotes page? Looking forward to seeing what else you’re reflecting on. Love from Holland, Jasmine

    1. Thank you so much for the encouraging comment! Totally feel free to use on your quotes page.

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