My friend wasn’t trying to be hurtful when sharing his romantic preferences. After all, preferences are just that—what we prefer—right? Yet, when he noted that he wouldn’t date a divorced woman because he wanted his significant other to be “fresh” there was something underlying in his words that reverberated me back to a past I had worked so hard to make amends with. It was the subtext of his comment—a woman with emotional baggage is a woman, who is seemingly undesirable, unfit to be loved—that offered the jaunt blow.
To be fair his comment felt personal because I am divorced but it also shed light on a harrowing truth. My friend’s comment reminded me that even in our Christian faith, a faith that promises suffering as a means to becoming more divine, we expect our lives to be delivered perfect packages. And anything that does not benefit our ideal is seen as undesirable. We overlook anyone or anything that makes life messy. This is not singular to dating. The reach for perfection is broadened to every area of our lives. From the partners we hope to marry to the well-mannered children we hope to one-day rear, we are terrified of what might happen if our lives aren’t perfect because really we dread having to face ourselves in light of imperfection.
Imperfection is erratic, inconsistent and unstable. When confronted with the unpredictability of imperfection we run. For so many of us the pursuits of perfect mates who live with us in perfect houses are masks for what is happening in the crux of our hearts. I believe we’re afraid of truly being seen, and known for who we are. We have brokenness and sin that underscore our insecurities.
I know this personally to be true because I spent much of my young adult life bending and flexing, trying to bow down to the idol of flawlessness. As a daughter I wanted my mother to see my straight-As report cards and tell me that I was enough. As a sister I wanted to measure up to the level of intelligence of my oldest brother. And as a wife I wanted my, then, husband to tell me that because of all my cooking and cleaning he didn’t make a mistake in marrying. I wanted to be seen as perfect, far removed from my mortal fallibility.
It wasn’t until I encountered the love of God that I stopped with my masquerade. I know that sounds cliché: Girl meets God; God makes it all better. Though that’s a hyperbolic expression of how God’s role in my life freed me from the imprisonment of perfectionism it is filled with truth. In the scriptures I began reading story after story of people broken people God favored, people like Hagar and King David. And as I read these stories and discovered God’s proclivity towards imperfect beings it became revelatory that what makes God’s love so profound is that he sees us. He saw me. Knowing that I was seen—lovingly seen—by the Author of life freed me from trying to be seen by others. I accepted myself as human, fallible and prone to imperfection. I learned to see myself with the same loving eyes of Christ and I embraced his working power in my life, not my own.
He sees us in ways we are scared of being seen. It is through the lens of vulnerability that God keeps an eye on his children. God sees the ugliest parts of our humanity and still invites us in. He goes as far as telling us that in his pursuit for his children he doesn’t look at our outward appearance. He looks to our hearts, knowing that much of what is in our hearts isn’t good yet he is still there telling us to bring our imperfection. Imperfection is where God does his best work. This is what makes the Christian faith unique in this world. God’s desire for relationship with mankind despite our brokenness and sin is a gracious love wherein we bring God nothing and he gives us everything.
Understanding the depths of this kind of love was healing for me. Learning I could bring my full self before a perfect God who wouldn’t flinch at my past secured me. God’s love grounded me and forced me to stop running from myself. And most of all, God’s love taught me how to love others in their imperfection.
I told my friend how damaging his words were, and he was kind enough to embrace my feedback without being defensive. We talked about what it means to love others as God loves and he has since changed his dating preferences.
None of us are perfect. We all fall short of the standard set by the true and living King, but as we stumble our way through this crazy, messy life we are not alone. God near us letting us know that in our imperfection we are still being seen, and loved.