Between fourth and eighth grade I was part of my school’s fiddle club. Why we had a fiddle club I will never know, and why I wanted to join is also a mystery. I am the least musically inclined person I know, and as the daughter of a former DJ, I’m able to highly appreciate the talent of those who are actually musically gifted. Either way, I spent four years with this instrument and was a good player, but never a great player. Why? Beyond natural talent, there was a huge deciding factor in this: I never practiced. After the couple hours spent after school was done, I was take the rented fiddle home and instead of playing it and practicing what I had learned like I was supposed to, I put it in its case and let it sit under my bed until the next week.
I’ve used this method of avoidance in pretty much everything I’ve ever tried to do – Irish dancing for eight years resulted in very lazy forms and steps, my shot for archery was enough to get by after six years but didn’t wow anyone, I made it through knitting one scarf and then hung up my needles forever, and I could never quite hit that toe touch after two years of varsity cheerleading, Call it lazy, a lack of drive or being severely uncoordinated, but my practice was never there, so I could never reach the perfect. The saying coaches and teachers always use, that “practice makes perfect” never encouraged me and, if anything, acted as my personal method of defiance.
When it comes to my faith, I’ve suffered this same mentality. Except, instead of “practice makes perfect”, I’ve come to realize that no matter how much I practice I will never be perfect. None of us are perfect, no matter how much we practice, and I think that’s a hard reality for many in their faith journey. I mean, I know if I had actually practiced I probably could have been a great cheerleader and knitter. I know success and perfection were always a possibility. So how can we accept the reality that no matter how much we practice our faith, that no matter how many endless hours we dedicate to God or prayer or servanthood, that we will always fall short?
I actually find this really liberating and freeing and I’ll tell you why. In every other area of our life there are expectations and standards to uphold – there’s an invisible mark we must reach and maintain in order to be seen as good or worthy or valuable. God does not work this way. He rejoices in our practice and mourns in our avoidance but loves us just the same. He doesn’t care that my prayers are simple or that I suffer from human temptation – He only cares for us.
Instead of being disappointed that your practice will never make you perfect, I think we should all be thankful for the opportunity to practice. We have been gifted the beautiful opportunity to try, to have access to the opportunity to grow, without the expectation or fear of failure. Go ahead – try a new form of worship, journal horribly, sing out of key – and know that, to God, it is all perfect.