I think we need more of the imperfect in our lives. All sorts of imperfect.
And, specifically, I think we need more of the Latin imperfect tense in our lives.
Random, I know.
Just lately I’ve been forced to think about where my family is at in life with certain things. Don’t worry, this isn’t a ‘woe is me’ post, but rather a very real acknowledgement of the choices we’ve made; the things we’ve said ‘yes’ to.
You see sometimes we think that saying ‘yes’ to something is a once-off event. And sometimes it really is. But where I’m at in life tells me that saying ‘yes’ to something is more often than not, a continual action. An ongoing action. And it helps to recognize this.
Years ago, when our oldest boy was a chubby five month old we said ‘yes’ to an ask for my husband to leave his job in mainstream media and move into Christian media. We said yes then, and then we said ‘yes’ again to another job offer in America, and then Australia, and then another one back in NZ. Yes, yes and yes. But even before that initial yes when we were in the throes of power chucks and power poos (our firstborn – not us), we’d been saying ‘yes’ to opportunities to serve the youth and young adults in our church, yes to stuffing envelopes and whatever little tasks needed doing. Yes. Just yes. Yes that stemmed from a desire to see us just be used by God. Has it been hard? Yes. Has it been amazing? Yes. Are we a little crazy? I think it has helped! Would we change anything if we could? Not a chance. But that’s all a very big tangent that I won’t take right now.
This continual action business – I think it could do with a bit more of a spotlight shining on it, because it is important in shaping the trajectory of our lives.
I think we could all do with remembering that many things require this continual action.
Saying ‘yes’ to a loving someone is not a one-time event, is it? You don’t go to all the trouble of a fancy pants wedding to love and to hold your spouse for just that week. No, you choose to love to them, again and again and again. You see beyond the niggly and the hard and you love, and you love and you love. Again and again. Continually.
I love words. I love interesting words. But sometimes I find that the English language can be somewhat lacking in accurately describing things. My high school offered Latin as a subject, and I loved it. Dead language? I think not. A language that makes complete sense? Absolutely. In Latin (and all the romance languages) there’s a tense for this whole ‘more than once’ in the past business. The imperfect tense is used to indicate an action that took place in the past but was an ongoing action rather than something that happened just once. It’s actually a very handy tool to have.
To put it into context: do you know that old hymn ‘I have decided to follow Jesus’? “I have decided to follow Jesus. (3 times)No turning back, no turning back.” There’s a story around this hymn that talks of an Indian convert (thanks to some Welsh Missionaries) coming up with the lines of this hymn when he was facing his imminent death. His martyrdom. The Village chief hadn’t approved of his conversion to Christianity. Now this wasn’t a ‘brand new, knee-jerk reaction, just made the commitment to be a Christ follower on the spot, right there and then’ statement, no it was a ‘I have decided, I have decided over and over again, to follow Jesus’. If the song had been written in Roman times it would have surely been in the imperfect tense: ‘I have decided over and over again, to follow Jesus’.
And I think that its worth focusing on these imperfect tenses a little bit more and a little bit more often, because it reaffirms who we are and what we’re about. Works in progress that we are. People who have to make the choices again and again and again to say Yes to loving God and to say yes to loving others.
I hope at the end of my life there are certain things that can be said about me, making excellent use of the imperfect tense.
I hope that it can be said of me that I chose to love my husband, my kids, my friends. my extended family, and my co-workers and neighbours, over and over again.
I hope it is mentioned that I continually said yes to God – however that looked (knowing that it always looks different for everyone).
I hope that someone acknowledges that I did decide to follow Jesus, over and over again.
And have you been wondering why this whole imperfect tense business is called ‘imperfect’? Simply, it’s because something that is imperfect is something that is not yet finished.
I have chosen to say yes to following God, but there will be more opportunities for more of those ‘yes’ agreements to come.
These continuous actions are not yet completed.
I have decided to follow Jesus, and there’s more following to come.
The verbs, these doing words that give us the greatest amount of joy, and teach us the most important things, they are actions that are not yet completed. And this for me as a Christ-follower gives me such breadth and scope for growth and development and potential. The actions are not yet completed, not over and done with yet, therefore not perfect.
Perfectly imperfect. That’s me. And that’s you. Bring on more of it!