The perfect is the greatest enemy of the good.
I had an image in my head of a perfect day after Thanksgiving. Rather than go shopping and spend time acting like animals, my children and I would go to the zoo and enjoy the animals. The boys and I have had many idyllic afternoons at the zoo, so this image seemed far from utopic and within the realm of realistic possibility.
Expectations have expansive properties like balloons. The larger they grow, the more taut they become; more often than not, eventually they pop.
My day after Thanksgiving balloon popped before we even made it to the parking lot. A toddler crying, a disagreement about gum, and a short-tempered momma preoccupied what was intended to be a peaceful drive. The one day we didn’t have hoodies in the car, we actually needed them; however, I was hell-bent on salvaging the morning, so shivering and cranky we pushed through. I should have aborted mission when we had already prayed for a new start two times in the parking lot. The toddler standing on the stroller and falling on his head ten feet inside the zoo gates provided the final pop to our perfect morning.
We know the disappointment and agony of popped balloons in our household, both literally and figuratively.
Whenever I put the weight of the perfect on people, places and circumstances that cannot be perfect, I crush the vestiges of the good that could be found and celebrated in them.
The perfect truly is the greatest enemy of the good. I know this. I have learned the art of managing expectations. I have a theological undergirding that tells me that life on this earth in these human bodies will always be a mixed bag. I know that we are all more sinful and more broken then we could possibly imagine yet, paradoxically, more beautiful and loved than we could possibly dream.
Yet sometimes, the balloons of expectations escape my attempts to right-size them and expand uncontrolled and unbeknownst in my heart. The popping is usually the first indication that one has been lodging in my heart.
In my experience, holiday seasons are breeding grounds for misplaced expectations. The drive to cook the perfect turkey, the desire to recapture the perfect Christmas eve and countless attempts to create perfect family memories can crush and crowd out the good that could be birthed in the space of reality.
With tears in my eyes as we drove home after aborting the zoo mission before it even truly began, I found myself thanking the Lord for being committed to popping my perfect. With the growing and suffocating hope for the perfect out of the way, I was able to see the good in the mess of a morning.
Children who were sensitive to my sadness and disappointment. A toddler perfectly content with playing with a calculator in our house. A chance to teach my children through my own weakness that conflict can breed intimacy.
These are good gifts, indeed.
Father, thank you that there is one perfect One whom you gave up for us. Thank you that in and through the gospel, we are invited to salvage the good and cultivate realistic beauty in broken bodies on a broken globe. May our hope and our joy be in You this holiday season, for you alone can carry the burden of the perfect.