Present Over Perfect
The text came when I was already ten minutes overdue. It was a Sunday morning and I was supposed to meet a friend for coffee and conversation, an hour and a half before our Sunday school class started.
At that point, I had a decision to make. I could run out the door and salvage most of our time together. But that would mean arriving a bit rumpled, without my hair done - and afterward going to lead the women's Sunday school class in that condition.
Maybe you've been faced with a similar decision. The demands of life, family, and ministry can leave us with little margin. Because of that, showing up for people we care about may sometimes require willingness to show up in less than prime condition.
That morning I chose to run out the door. I juggled the bag of canned goods for the food bank, my tote containing materials for both Sunday school and an after church meeting, and my coffee cup. As I struggled out of the car, dropping things along the way, I began to question my choice. I was a bit of a mess. Did I really want to face everyone at church that way?
Once I slid into my seat opposite a precious young woman seeking to follow Christ and serve her family, I immediately knew the answer. I was exactly where I was supposed to be, regardless of my messy hair and lack of make-up (or even deodorant). Her heart didn't need my perfection, just my presence.
As we parted, my spirit was filled with thankfulness for our time together. It was an honest sharing of struggles and victories, an opportunity to speak hope while we each wait for answers to deeply felt prayers. The simple reminder that we are not alone is sometimes all that we need to continue pressing on.
I've missed too many similar opportunities, worried that what I had to offer was not good enough. Maybe you have too. How many dinner invitations have not been extended, because of worry that the house won't be clean enough or the menu up to par? Have you, like me, missed the chance to host a missionary or members of a traveling music ensemble because your laundry is overflowing and your house is 'too small'?
Meanwhile, all around us people are hungry. Not hungry for a gourmet meal or the perfect cup of coffee. Not starving for an opportunity to be in a home with decor worthy of gracing magazine covers. Just longing to gather, in need of uplifting conversation with a little laughter sprinkled in. If we can release our need for perfection, we can give and receive the beautiful gift of connection.
We live in a tough world, and brokenness impacts each of us. The best way I know to face it all is together. Mutual support strengthens us to continue fighting the good fight. The writer of Hebrews put it this way, "Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another." (10:24-25)
There is power in simply showing up. The condition of our clothes, our hairdo and makeup, our main dish, or our house does not matter nearly as much as the condition of our hearts. I've come to accept lowering my standards in those areas, so I can create space in my calendar to make presence a priority. I invite you to join me in releasing perfection, so we can embrace the fullness of life lived in community.