Out of Exile: Day 24 – The Enemy of the Good

If you are late to this party, I hope you’ll go back to the beginning and catch up. The idea of exile isn’t readily understandable and takes some time to sink in. But once it sinks in, everything starts to make sense…at least from a faith perspective.

The problem with most Christian faith is we try to embrace it through a secular grid of success. It doesn’t work. We should have caught on to that when Jesus said, “The last will be first.” But no one wants to believe that. We want to think Jesus was being clever. No, he was speaking Truth, we are just too blind to see it.

Exile will always be offensive until we understand life from God’s perspective. The author who has helped me grasp this the best is Richard Rohr. I’m sharing a number of his writings because I think he says it better than I can. Here is yet another post taken from his book, Falling Upward:

The Demand for the Perfect is the Enemy of the Good – Richard Rohr

We grow spiritually much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right.That might just be the central message of how spiritual growth happens, yet nothing in us wants to believe it.

If there is such a thing as human perfection, it seems to emerge precisely from how we handle the imperfection that is everywhere, especially our own. What a clever place for God to hide holiness, so that only the humble and earnest will find it!  A “perfect” person ends up being one who can consciously forgive and include imperfection rather than one who thinks he or she is totally above and beyond imperfection. 

We grow spiritually much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right. – Rohr

It becomes sort of obvious once you say it out loud. In fact, I would say that the demand for the perfect is the greatest enemy of the good. Perfection is a mathematical or divine concept; goodness is a beautiful human concept that includes us all. People whom we call “good people” are always people who have learned how to include contradictions and others, even at risk to their own proper self-image or their social standing. This is quite obvious in Jesus.  

Exile feels like “exile” because we insist on life being perfect. We expect things to go “well.” If you are a pastor, you expect your congregation to grow spiritually, your offerings to go up, your building program to succeed, and that you will make an impact in your community. If it doesn’t, something must be wrong. Fix it!

Sometimes the only way to break free from this “success” mentality is to experience “failure.” It’s a gift to “fail” and wake up one day and see that the world didn’t end. Life goes on. God is still God. The forecasts were wrong. There is life after failure, unless you insist on living in regret. You see the world differently on the other side of failure.

How have you grown spiritually by doing it wrong? How has the perfect been the enemy of the good for you? Leave a comment and share this with a friend if it you found it helpful. Thanks for joining the conversation.

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3 thoughts on “Out of Exile: Day 24 – The Enemy of the Good

  1. ExiledPastor

    So thankful for this series of posts. I have been in exile for about 5 years, 3 as a new church planter, the last two as a bi-vocational pastor. Five years ago, the church I helped plant some years ago as an assistant sent me out to be the lead of a new church plant. After calling me to plant, I was given three months to recruit a launch team, find a location, and start Sunday services. Financial support would be cut off three months after launch. To our launch team, the process felt more like a divorce than a plant. Nevertheless, the team pulled together and accomplished some amazing ministry to the church and community. Sadly, after three years, church attendance declined. We had been meeting in a school, but, though we had done some great outreaches to the school and surrounding community, we had not seen one family from the school connect to our new church. The few families who did connect ended up connecting at the church from which we came. I took this a sign that perhaps we needed to re-launch the church as a satellite/campus of the main church instead of us being on our own. Those discussions never made out of our church leadership, and, for the sake of protecting the existing staff and financial health of the new church, plus my own sense release from the ministry to which I had been called, I resigned. My family and I are now back at the home church, enjoying being served and serving, waiting for the next assignment. I’ve been working a secular job for about two years. Some have suggested that our family move on to an entirely new church and get a fresh start. I have sensed there are kingdom issues and relational issues between the two churches that, in the context of God’s grace and the gospel, need healing and restoring. I have turned down a number of ministry offers from churches in our local community, sensing that it would be more of chasing a paycheck than a passion. The real hero in our story is my wife, who has been fully supportive of me working in the market place while we wait. I experience bouts of disillusionment, depression, discouragement, anxiety, anger. I have had my dark side exposed and called out. I/we are hopeful that God is at work, but at times I feel He is light years away and uninvolved.

  2. Lisa

    Perfectionism, idealism and I’ll throw in expectations were like the invisible hammers always ready to beat me down. I don’t know when it happened or what triggered it but 3 or 4 years ago I gave myself permission to be released from abuses in perfectionism. “Maturity” rather than “perfection” is a word that I prefer to embrace now. It embodies the ideas of a gradual process with approximations, continually pressing into the desires of God, and thankful for what is revealed and what is not. Maturity helps me maintain a mindset more towards patience and perseverance. Maturity feels more graceful and not the “microwaved” hurry up mode.

    I like the idea from People of the Second Chance Fb page: “Grace means that all of your mistakes now serve a purpose instead of serving shame.” Yea… been chewing on that one for a while and even able to swallow the thought (without getting sick) and digest it in a good way. All good signs of maturity in my opinion.

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