Thursday, April 08, 2010

Being Perfect



*Again this post is heavy on Mormon speak, I've tried to link to words and phrases that might not be familiar to non Mormons.  Additionally, this post may make more sense if you've already read about our baby here and here.  

I subscribe to a few different podcasts, one being an LDS podcast that features talks ranging from every different subject from any given decade.  I don't listen to it religiously {get it?} but when I want to hear a talk I haven't heard before, one that I didn't specifically download it's nice to turn to this podcast.  A few months ago I listened to a talk by Elder Nelson that I had never heard before called Jesus the Christ--Our Master and More.  The talk focuses on 10 different roles and responsibilities Jesus came to fulfill while in his mortal ministry.  For me, this talk was filled with new information, things I had never heard before, although surely they were there all along.  See when you've been a lifelong member of a religion where you've given 3 hours of your time every Sunday for as long as you can remember, where you attended an early morning religion class every day all 4 years of high school {when I wasn't sleeping in, natch.}, a religion that also happens to own and operate the college you graduated from which insisted on more religious classes, devotionals, and other weekly religious activities, not to mention growing up with weekly youth activities, summer camp programs, etc, etc, etc....you tend to hear a lot of the same stuff.  Over and over.  Which is great because as it turns out, it takes a lot of reminding to stay on the straight and narrow.  But, when you come across this new information, it's like a little boost in your religious diet.  And you wonder where this new taste is coming from and why your shopping cart skipped this aisle in the grocery store for so long?  The point is {I am so long winded} there was something specific about this talk that was new, and it caught my attention.  In Jesus the Christ--Our Master and More, Elder Nelson says the following:

In his sermon on the mount, Jesus challenged his followers with this admonition:  

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.  [Matthew 5:48]

Sinless and flawless as Jesus was in mortality, we should remember that  he viewed his own state of physical perfection as being yet in the future ( see Luke 13:32).  Even he had to endure to the end.... When the crucified and resurrected Lord appeared to the people in ancient America, he again stressed the importance of his example.  But now he included himself as a perfected personage:  

I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect. [3 Nephi 12:48].

...Please, do not be discouraged by the Lord's expression of hope for your perfection....You can attain a certain degree of perfection in some things in this life.  And you can become perfect in keeping various commandments.  But the Lord was not necessarily asking for your errorless and perfect behavior in all things....His hopes are for your full potential to be realized...that includes the perfection of your physical body, when it will be changed to an immortal state that cannot deteriorate or die.  So while you earnestly strive for continuing improvement in your life here, remember your resurrection, exaltation and perfection await you in the life to come.  

Like I said, this was news to me.  Jesus was not perfect until after he was resurrected?  I had always been taught that Jesus had led a perfect life--which he did--and therefore I assumed that he was in every way, perfect.  But even if it was only his body, he was not actually perfect--or perfected--while in mortality.  The fact that he didn't include himself in that admonition to be perfect in his mortal ministry was a lightbulb moment for me.  The other newsflash--I will not be perfect in this life.  I know, I know...this should be obvious.  And in some ways it is, but there was a big part of me that always thought that perfection though not easy, was attainable in this life.

Now here's where it gets interesting... later that same week when I first heard that talk I attended a fireside given by a member of the quorum of the seventy, named Elder Cook.  And while his topic was vastly different than Elder Nelson's talk, he too briefly mentioned this idea of perfection.  He cited the same two scriptures and gave the same example of Jesus not yet being perfected until after he was resurrected.  And for some reason the statement he said that has really stuck with me went something like this, Beware of trying to become perfect.  We don't even know what that looks like.  

I wasn't sure when Elder Nelson had given his talk, but it must have been recently--otherwise why would Elder Cook have cited the exact same example?  At the end of his talk, I went up and introduced myself to Elder Cook and inquired if he had recently read or heard this talk by Elder Nelson.  He said no, he had never heard this talk.  Later at home I discovered Elder Nelson's talk was given in 1992 at a BYU devotional.  Hearing this new idea of perfection the first time was interesting enough, hearing it twice in the same week was not a coincidence.

Since then I've thought about this a lot.  I've thought about my ideas of perfect and what I expect of myself and what I expect of others.  I can't say I've come to any grand conclusions, but I've been thinking about it.  It was a personal and timely message for me.  Of course this was before the revelation of baby Lamp.  At the time I thought this message was all about me.

Since the news of our little babe, it seems that everywhere I turn I'm confronted with the news of babies being born and the majesty of these new little bodies with loving parents doting on every miniature feature.  It's not uncommon for people to describe their delicate little newborns as perfect.  We certainly did with Beanie. 10 little toes and 10 little fingers.  It was Jim and Pam on the Office a few weeks ago.  It's various friends in real life and on the internet...over and over again that word, perfect.

We know that Lamp won't be perfect.  I know what you're thinking, Oh she will!  She's a sweet little baby, who will be perfect because she's innocent and who cares what she looks like she'll be perfect to you.  I know that.  But the reality is her body will be most imperfect.  When you think of a little baby reaching out a perfect little arm, with a perfect little hand...that won't be Lamp.  When you think of those perfect little baby feet imprints they give you at the hospital, that won't be Lamp.  I could tell you it's OK, but the truth is it's been a hard pill to swallow.  Seeing a tiny body that has not developed correctly won't be easy.  I know I will get used to it and regardless I already love her with all the human tenderness and primal fierceness naturally bestowed upon us mothers.  She is my baby, my child.  But I wrestle...I wrestle with wanting to protect her from voyeuristic stares, while not wanting to hide her and make her feel shame for who she is and the body she received.  I wrestle with my own ideas of our perfect family and what I thought that would look like.  I wrestle with loving my Lamp, while looking at other families and silently wondering how did you just get 3, 4, 5, or 6 perfectly normal children?  I wrestle with acceptance and disbelief.

But then I think back on the earlier lesson in perfection--the lesson that not even Jesus was in a perfected body during his mortal life.  I can't say it eases all worry and sadness, but there's something there.  Something that resonates, something I can't quite put my finger on....but perhaps it's this:  The Savior modeled spiritual perfection in this life, but even his body was not one of physical perfection.  Yet it is a physical perfection that is most sought after, most desired and most admired in the world today.  There are women {and men for that matter} that nip, tuck, tweak and sculpt every inch of their bodies in a never ending quest for physical perfection.  A perfection that as it turns out, is completely unattainable.  All the while often neglecting the most important aspect of perfection modeled by our Savior--spiritual perfection.  And even though we won't be perfect in this life, we can become much closer to spiritual perfection than physical perfection.  I'm not saying I wouldn't want Lamp to have a normal body, I would.  This is a difficult world and I hate to think of the challenges my little babe has in store for her.  But while she may have the odds stacked against her physically, it's comforting to know she may have been dealt a better hand, or at the very least an equal hand, spiritually.  And when I think of her imperfect little body again those words sound in my ears...

Beware of trying to become perfect.  We don't even know what that looks like.       


*photo 

21 comments:

  1. Beautiful post, beautiful thoughts.

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  2. You are just great. My heart breaks for the footprints. Piper's one inch foot-prints were all I had of proof that my wee baby was here since I wasn't able to see her for a few hours. I still hold the moments of looking at those tiny prints so close. You must be hurting so much at the thought of not having that. But, you'll have something else. Whatever it is in the first few moments after sweet baby lamps delivery, there will be something special shared with her that you will love and remember forever. I recommend you keep your eyes open and watch for it, not that you need me to tell you that. Mine were baby feet on a piece of paper, maybe yours will be the perfectly round button nose or the head full of dark hair.

    I tend to go on and on. I feel so proud of you. You are going to make me a better mom through your discoveries and examples. Love you!

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  3. Thank you for this post. It has been something on my mind and I have felt imperfect lately. Such a beautiful message. Thanks.

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  4. You should submit this to the Ensign, and I'm not even joking. This is an extremely well-written post that everyone needs to read. Thank you for your testimony!

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  5. Hi, my husband Marcus is Bracken's cousin. (Marcus is one of Dave and Marie's kids.) I don't think I've ever met you because you guys have been out of state since I've been the family. I just wanted to tell you though that your words are beautiful and inspiring. I love that you are honest but you sure have faith. We are praying for you and your family.

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  6. Wow. That was eloquently put, and gave me much to think on. Thank you sharing in your journey, and I'm glad that little Lamp is being born into such a loving and spiritual family.

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  7. You are so insightful and inspiring. I agree with Holly - everyone needs to read this.

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  8. An incredibly beautiful post, Miggy.

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  9. I really felt the Spirit as I read this. It resonated with me as well and gave me a lot to ponder on. Thank you for the lift and the perspective.

    love you so much you beautiful soul.

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  10. You are AMAZING. Your post made me teary, but in a really GOOD way :)

    I didn't tell you this before, but reading of your struggles lately have really helped me with my own puny struggles. I don't know if you want to know that, or not. I just wanted to say "Thank you" from the bottom of my heart.

    Still praying for you all...

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  11. I am so inspired right now. Thank you for thinking this and taking the time to write this and sharing your heart.

    On the perfection note: i was watching PBS American Experience "The Mormons" and they talked about this idea that Mormons have of perfection. Then they talked about this perfect woman that Mormon women try to be and, of course, it was totally distorted, talking only about the 5 children she has and that she bakes cookies, and blah blah blah. Anyway, I was thinking about it - what is my idea of perfection? I know I don't agree with that. I don't agree that baking cookies or having the most well-behaved children are the picture of perfect. And after reading this I feel like I understand better what my idea of perfection is, and what the Lord means. So, again, thank you. My brain is just opening up so much right now.

    And I agree. The Ensign. Do it. You are an amazing writer. Real, raw, full of the Spirit.

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  12. i started off my morning reading this post and I'm glad i did because I felt the spirit while reading it and it gives me a lot to think about- in a good, peaceful sort of way :) one thing is for sure, you are on a much higher level of motherhood than I ever will be which makes me thankful to you and others who share things on their posts that I can learn from. I wish we could see you guys more often but meanwhile we'll keep you all in our prayers :)

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  13. Oh I just loved this. After reading the other comments, all I can say is - DITTO! I've just had a dose of heavenly perspective, and I'm grateful for it. Thanks and love to you.

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  14. You are such an inspirational mom. I find myself checking in and being lifted by your example!! I really admire you for sharing so honestly what you are going through. Though I've never been through anything like this, there is something very human in connecting with others who are REAL and trying and learning and growing... especially friends. Love ya! You're always on my mind! I've shared many many stories that begin with... "do you real Amy's blog?..."

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  15. this was beautiful. i love your spirit. i love your ability to put what you are experiencing out there. and i just love you.

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  16. I just came on to recommend following Reagan (a brave mom)'s blob...but I see here that you are already connected.

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  17. Check out this cool kid, Liam

    http://journal.satsumapress.com/2009/10/kindergarten-halloween-party.html

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  18. Absolutely fabulous. I'm going to use that quote--it's really something. Beautifully written post.

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  19. Amy,
    I just found your blog and I can't stop reading it. This is incredible. Thank you for being so open and frank, and quite honestly teaching me things through your process. I am impressed with you as a mother, and moreso with you as an example and a daughter of God. I sure love you, it has been a LONG time! I am glad I could catch up with what is going on in your life.

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  20. Just found this months after the fact and I love it. Absolutely love it. Not to be a stalker, but I'm going to link to you on my blog because you are THAT cool.

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  21. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy life to write this blog. I appreciate how honest and frank you are with your own struggles, and I appreciate the awareness you raise for "special needs" kids. The joy is apparent in each story. Than you,

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