Written and Shared by: Chaplain Chris Belfield
SPOILER ALERT! Christmas presents are discussed in the article.
When I was nine-years-old, I enjoyed watching my grandfather cut the lawn with a push mower. He did such a meticulous job of getting into every nook and cranny of a substantial sized lawn. In fact – it was one of the larger yards in our neighborhood. Three houses shared a backyard fence with us. My grandfather was raised in rural eastern Virginia and had real skill and love for gardening and keeping the yard in pristine condition. He knew all about watering, fertilizing, edging, and providing all the essentials needed. A weed would not dare consider desecrating such a landscape with its evil presence, or such was my youthful perception. We also had pear trees, plum trees, and a rose garden that would make the White House proud.
When I turned ten, my grandfather bestowed upon me the honor of being permitted to partner with the mighty Briggs and Stratton to cut the lawn for the very first time. The experience was sullied by the fact that the lawnmower had an evil spirit that took it places I did not want to go. Needless to say, the first experience was indeed a learning experience until I was shown how to direct the roaring machine to do as I wished. After that, it was much more enjoyable. I also learned a valuable lesson at that time – any job worth doing was worth doing right. I had finished putting away the mower and was set to go bike riding with my friends when my grandfather reminded me that the yard was not finished. There was raking and trimming along the fence. Raking and trimming what seemed to be an area as big as a football field? Really? The rake was a well-seasoned metal tine rake and did the job adequately. However, as this was in the pre-weed eater age, and trimming was done with hand trimmers and on your knees. I was almost an hour into the grass trimming along the fence, ensuring that no blade of grass escaped my efforts when my grandfather taught me another lesson. He stated that I just needed to cut the high points and that perfection was not required. A reprieve! Thank you, Lord!
Fast Forward 30 years and the United States Air Force trained me as a navigator, nuclear missile officer, and security officer. For the duties as a navigator and missile officer, perfection was the standard and expected. Everything was timed to the highest exacting standards and was frequently tested during exercises. This mindset carried over to my training as a security officer. I was a little surprised when the rifle shooting range official saw my obvious disappointment in not hitting all of my shots within the black circle. She explained that I did not need to be perfect every time in shooting – just close enough to stop the threat and get the job done. Hence, I learned the axiom, "Close enough for government work."
Fast forward again to 2020 and the changes that the pandemic has wrought. All have not been bad. In fact, if not for the pandemic, I would not have learned how to use my lathe to turn bowls, platters, and vases. A kind and incredibly patient gentleman I met at our local Sunday breakfast eatery volunteered to teach me how to turn. After hours of instruction and practice, he had successfully trained me to a level of confidence where I could try on my own. He also emphasized that there was a point where you stop and are satisfied with the results, rather than try for perfection. Oh, if only I had listened. Last week, I turned a bowl I was making, as a Christmas gift, from walnut and maple. It had the correct form and function. The outside buffed up to an excellent finish. All I had to do was take my time removing the inside material. All went well until I noticed a nub of wood that was sticking up in the bottom center. I mean a really tiny nub. But I was after perfection. I slowly and methodically chipped away at the nub, at 3,000 RPMs, and was just about there when the entire project blew apart from the lathe. I had gone all the way through because I had not
kept an eye on the bottom's thickness—three hours of work gone. Nobody would have noticed the tiny nub but me.
Christmas this year is not the perfect Christmas that we would want, courtesy of the pandemic. However, perfection, again, is not required. What is needed is to do the very best we can for others, ourselves, and be content with the blessings that we have. Our perfect God loves us just as we are – imperfect and human, but his loved children nonetheless. The perfect gift of salvation is available to all – for free. Receive it and enjoy.
Our encouragement verse for this week is:
Romans 15:7 (NIV)
“ Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”
May you be blessed by God's word. Chris