Failing to Find Perfection
By Canada Burns
The older I get the more restless I become. Perhaps restless is not the correct word. Realistic would perhaps be better, though it’s the kind of realism that brings anxiety rather than clarity. Growing up, my imagination soared. Sitting in my Dad’s lap watching Star Trek, I dreamed of exploring the depths of space in all its beauty. Immersing myself in The Chronicles of Narnia, I dreamed of other worlds full of adventure and wonder.
Yet sometimes it feels like “real life” has sucked the wonder from my soul. I begin to dream but then adulthood flies up and smacks me in the face like a wayward newspaper caught by the wind. “Go to work, pay bills, and make sure the house is clean,” it reminds me. On top of that are the pressures of society saying, “Be successful. Get married. Have kids.”
I take a breath and wonder why I even indulged in such tales of wonder as a child when the world tells me there is no hope of living them.
I’m reminded of the lyric from Twenty One Pilots in Stressed Out:
We used to play pretend, give each other different names,
We would build a rocket ship and then we’d fly it far away,
Used to dream of outer space but now they’re laughing at our face,
Saying, “Wake up, you need to make money.”
Allow me to clarify: there is nothing wrong with going to work, paying bills, keeping the house clean, being successful, getting married, and having kids. In fact, those are some great goals to have. I think what I and Tyler Joseph are trying to express is the disheartening idea that we are all doomed to become boring adults with our dreams of childhood overcome by the necessary daily grind.
Speaking of outer space, my existential pondering brings to mind a group of particular alien villains from the Star Trek franchise called the Borg. On the surface, the Borg were your typical alien empire bent on galaxy-wide domination. But the thing that made them especially scary was their cold emotionless intent. The Borg “collective” was made of humanoid drones, each one linked to a hive mind to maximize efficiency. There was no individuality amongst them. Each drone was a mindless finite cog in a huge machine that spread itself across the galaxy assimilating information, planets, and peoples. If the Borg captured you, they would turn you into one of these mindless drones, doomed to spend the rest of your life as an automaton. There was no passion, imagination, or exploration in the collective. Humanity and individuality were sacrificed for the sake of one goal: perfection. Yet the results of their pursuit left countless individuals enslaved or killed and thousands of planets decimated beyond recovery.
In our world, mankind seeks perfection as well. Man-made religions seek to bring us to a higher state of morality through rules and codes of conduct. Human social structures attempt to build community and order in the midst of chaos. And the norms of society promise that there is something worthwhile waiting for us once we have attained “the good life.”
But there is a problem: sin. In our flesh, perfection eludes us like a man grasping at the wind, yet still we long for it. As C. S. Lewis once said, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” This world was made perfect and then man sinned. We all know in the depths of our heart that something is wrong with the world and that we were made for more. Our search for something better is a testament to that. Yet, like the Borg, when the pursuit for perfection is done for selfish reasons and not in the power of Christ, it is a terrible thing to behold.
I have often found that in my flesh I build my own personal “Borg collective.” I set up self-made rules and compromises in a pursuit of what I in my flesh sees as perfection. At the same time, I let the standards of the world and culture overwhelm me until I become a stressed out drone who can only worry about what must be done next to increase efficiency for the sake of responsibility and cultural expectation. I allow my sin nature to assimilate me. Resistance is futile.
Individuality through Surrender
So what is the solution? How do we dreamers recover our individuality yet still be efficient in our responsibilities? Perhaps the answer lies in our very pursuit: perfection. There is only one perfect individual in existence: Jesus Christ. If we shift our focus to be on Him rather than ourselves, God molds us into those He can use. While our flesh may tell us that complete control facilitates perfection, surrender to the One who is perfect is, in fact, the better way. Oswald Chambers sums it up perfectly, “I am called to live in perfect relation to God so that my life produces a longing after God in other lives, not admiration for myself. Thoughts about myself hinder my usefulness to God. God is not after perfecting me to be a specimen in His showroom; He is getting me to the place where He can use me” (My Utmost for His Highest, December 2nd).
God never tells us to let go of our dreams. I still have a passion for exploration and stories of other worlds and galaxies. I take hope in the reality that my longings for another world are and will be fulfilled in Christ, the Author of perfection (2 Samuel 22:31) and the only One who can cleanse me of my sin. Yet at the same time, God tells us to be responsible and run the race. As Paul lays out so succinctly in Philippians 3, we are not to put confidence in our flesh (v2) but rather to press on for Christ’s sake (v14) because we belong to another world (v20).
The bottom line is simply this: We must never let the responsibilities of adulthood overshadow the freedom we have in Christ. Through His power we can be restored to our individuality and be free from the slavery of sin and the flesh. So let us be responsible with the daily grind, but never let it consume us. Be mindful that your dreams of something better are not worthless. Let them grow and fuel your passion to seek after Christ. In Him all things are possible.