Have you ever woken with a start when you heard a voice talking to you out of a sound sleep? I’m not talking about the calling out like when Samuel is sleeping and the Lord calls out to him three times and all three times he thinks it’s the priest Eli. 1 Samuel 3:8-11 “God called again, “Samuel!”—the third time! Yet again Samuel got up and went to Eli, “Yes? I heard you call me. Here I am.” That’s when it dawned on Eli that God was calling the boy. So Eli directed Samuel, “Go back and lie down. If the voice calls again, say, ‘Speak, God. I’m your servant, ready to listen.’” Samuel returned to his bed. Then God came and stood before him exactly as before, calling out, “Samuel! Samuel!” Samuel answered, “Speak. I’m your servant, ready to listen.”
That had to be one of my favorite Bible stories . . . young Samuel clutching his teddy bear and dragging his blanket, and even at his pre-teen age was ready to listen to God. I’ve been told we all dream but just don’t remember them. I don’t know about that because – well – I don’t remember them. I rarely wake up suddenly from a dream and it’s even more unusual that I wake up to someone talking to me, but a few days ago out of a sound sleep I heard a woman say, “You promised to do your best, and you didn’t.” How do you think I felt? How would you have felt? Uh-huh. Just a dream, no substance, feeble effect on the remainder of the day. Or was it?
Trying to ignore the voice in my head I went on with my day – same as always, but I kept revisiting that jarring instant and the voice saying, “You promised to do your best and you didn’t.” A few days earlier a friend had posted the lyrics to the song “I wonder have I done my best for Jesus” so I considered. Is that where that voice came from? Or maybe it was realizing that in my own human capacity I will always be one step away from my best, not quite perfection and sometimes decrepitly flawed. There are 66 books in the Bible but certain ones, I keep going back to. Philippians, of course; and who doesn’t gravitate toward the comforting words of Psalms? I skip all over most of the time – but that voice in my dream drove me into Romans. From chapter 7, these are the words that spoke to me on my quest for why isn’t my best good enough? “…I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary. But I need something more! This negativity of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.” What I really need to do then is as chapter 7 continues in verse 22 “ I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind.”
So that’s it then. Humanly I can never, ever reach perfection. I can keep striving though to serve God with all my heart and mind. Joshua 23:14 “Know this with all your heart, with everything in you, that not one detail has failed of all the good things God, your God, promised you. It has all happened. Nothing’s left undone—not so much as a word. “
Here’s my final thought on the elements of perfection. Nice try! Perfect is just a word, it’s not a state of being. Ready for this imperfect day? It’s still OK! Let’s get out there!