Dear Perfection (A Letter on Valentine’s Day)

Dear Perfection,

It’s an honor, first of all. I mean, there are so many of us who are online begging for your attention, so it means a lot that you would read this. I’m talking about the Valentine pictures, friendaversary videos, and those filtered collages of vacations we actually hated. You know what the good book says, right? “Instagram filters covereth a multitude of sins.”

But more to my point, there are millions of parents out there who are looking for your stamp of approval, and that’s really why I’m bothering you. I see what you’re doing, and we both know it’s not right.

When I think of you, Perfection, I think of Thomas Kinkade paintings. Kinkade is at once maligned and envied.  We mock him for his idyllic cottages by the sea with their pristine puffs of chimney smoke. We roll our eyes and say, “life isn’t like that!”

But then, in the next breath, there we are sharing our own cobblestone collages of our adoring and adorable children. There is no dirt here. There are no pudding hands. There is no perimeter of poorly aimed urine caked to the bathroom floor. Neither are there flashes of cutting sarcasm about half-empty cocoa mugs strewn across the living room, because we would never resort to such measures even if our kids ever forgot anything… assuming of course they drank such unhealthy concoctions. We don’t. They don’t. Because we’re all perfect. Just check out our timelines if you don’t believe us.

Of course you don’t believe us. We don’t believe us, either.

We know the truth about ourselves and our shortcomings. We know the truth about our own parenting: we are all imperfect.

But Perfection, you sly dog, you’ve done something sneaky to stay relevant. You’ve told us everything is yours. You’ve said it’s all perfect: the dirt and the pudding, the receding hairlines, the addictions, the insecurities and all the fears. And it such is a lovely sentiment, like those DOVE commercials where none of the women wants to walk under the “pretty” sign because they don’t think they’re beautiful enough, because they don’t realize that everyone is equally beautiful. Life comes in many shapes and sizes and ages and neurologies and pre-existing conditions and character flaws and temperaments. Some have jobs that bring home more bacon and earn more sacred ‘attaboys. “But none of it matters,” you assure us. “You are, all of you, perfect.”

There is, however, a sinkhole beneath that beachside cottage: You are implying that we must have you, Perfection, in order to have value.

You say we must make ourselves worthy of love. God help us, but it is a lie.

Still, we have chased your impossible standards with abandon. We ache for true validation and affection. We offer humble brags about our achievements and we edit our selfies to prove to the world-—and to ourselves-—that we are unblemished enough, even though we know it’s no use. There are unmistakable wrinkles in our foreheads. There is too much sadness in our brows. We know what failures lie behind our acned skin. Calling it perfection leaves us even more empty.

You are the carrot on the string; always before us, but never attained. You tempt but never satisfy.

One day, we’ll all awake to an older, deeper truth that will finally unseat you: there is value already baked inside us. There is a construct of worth that precedes success or failure, youth or atrophy, the flawless and the marred, and that construct cannot be removed by mere human inadequacies. There are fingerprints in our cells—Divine fingerprints—that no amount of brokenness can erase.

On the day of waking, we will remember we are loved.

We are flawed, and yet we are loved.

We are going gray, and we are loved.

We fail hard, and still we are loved.

Our kids sometimes sass us and we sometimes sass them back. We are immature parents, often petty, usually desperate, and almost always clueless. We fall a hundred miles short of your standard, but never short of the worth bestowed upon us by our Father.

I admit, I’m worse than imperfect. I am hopelessly broken and thoroughly incapable of putting myself back together.  That is the plain truth. But I am also fearlessly, eternally, unconditionally embraced. Fully known and fully loved. This is a wonder beyond Kinkadian fantasy; it is true perfection.

So Happy Valentines Day I guess, but we don’t need you anymore.



2 replies
  1. Chris
    Chris says:

    I’ve never quite heard it put this way, but I agree. The “you’re perfect just the way you are” leads to a world where everyone gets a trophy just for participating, but where no one’s satisfied. Acknowledging the innate conflict of being imperfect and broken yet perfectly loved is what makes faith a balancing act.


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