Monday, November 2, 2009

Practice Makes Perfect?

"Practice makes Perfect."  That phrase is like nails on a chalk board to my ears.  It drives me crazy when I hear it!  Why?  Because it isn't true.  Growing up I heard it from so many well-meaning adults.   I spent hour after hour practicing basketball--dribbling, shooting, passing,jumping, running, sliding, blocking, guarding--and guess what?  No perfection.  I've practiced drawing, writing, singing, braiding, typing, cleaning, ironing, folding, reciting and a myriad of other tasks, and none of them have ever reached perfection.  Not even close.  Ok, you may be thinking what a friend of my thinks, "Perfect Practice makes Perfect".  I think that's even worse.  How can you practice perfectly to become perfect?  That's quite an enigma to me.

By now you're probably thinking I'm simply a lazy bum, who hates practicing or perhaps I have some type of deficiency that  prevents me from achieving this "perfection" or success that everyone is striving for.  Perhaps you think I'm overreacting.  I don't think I am, because expectations are everything.  When you tell a swimmer, or a gymnast, or a spelling bee contestant that mistakes are not allowed, you're setting them up for disappointment.  The fact is that we're ALL a part of the human race and ALL humans fail.  None of us are perfect, no matter how much or how well we practice.  We will make mistakes.  It's not if we make mistakes, it's when.   Think about it.  How many times have we watched the Olympic games and seen a gymnast who's spent hundreds, if  not thousands of hours practicing the sames moves over and over again, only to fall or mess up pretty bad?  And even those who don't seem to make any mistakes, are docked points for some minuscule imperfection.  Perfection requires no mistakes.  It lacks nothing.  It is complete in every way.  Who can make that claim?  Well--Jesus.

Does this mean that I throw out practice-- like the baby with the bath water?  Of course not.  Let's put practice in the proper perspective.  Practice is meant to make the hard--easier, and the unnatural--more natural.  It is the process by which we acquire skills and improve them. It the method by which we develop habits that aren't natural to us.  Practice is doing something over and over again.  It's training.  It's reshaping the will.  It's hard work!  And as I've lived my life, I realize that the blessing is in the process of practicing itself, and not simply the result we receive at the end.  We learn things about ourselves during the process.  We discover our depravity, our weaknesses and our need for something bigger than us, to overcome everything that we lack.  We discover that when we make knowing God our ultimate goal--dwelling in His presence--something amazing happens!  We discover that God's grace is sufficient.  He is right there willing and ready to graciously, lavishly and freely provide the help that we need.  He takes our efforts, which are futile and ineffective on their own, and makes them productive and effective.  He reshapes us from the inside out.  Even more than that, He reveals more of Himself--His beauty, His goodness, His truth, His joy, his peace... 

Yes, there is work to be done, but it is not up to us to produce the results.  It is God Himself who purifies of work, and makes it perfect--not lacking anything, complete in every way.   So please practice.  Practice playing an instrument, practice knitting or sewing, practicing throwing, practice dribbling, practice running, practice writing, practice drawing, practice singing, practice reading, practice hospitality, practice doing good deeds, practice being thankful, practice giving, practice looking for the good...practice pursuing Him...practice.  Then look to the author and the finisher of our faith to complete the work He began in us--perfectly.

 "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: `Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty. Zechariah 4:6

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