Will Katie ever walk independently? Will she ever talk? Will she ever know how to spell her name? Will she ever eat a hamburger? These questions have crossed my mind a time or two over the past 10 years. The answers are just not known by us on this earth. I’ve never been told by any therapist or doctor that Katie will never do whatever it is that we are discussing. Which would sound like great news, but it creates an inner struggle that has consumed me most of Katie’s life. What to expect of her and what to accept she will never do.
Katie has an impairment in most every aspect of her life. She has always qualified for physical, occupational, speech and even vision therapy. That is a lot to keep up with at home. For the first 4 years of her life we pushed her hard. When we were at home I had a schedule and it included lots of therapy. I made it as fun as I could, making games out of our goals, but it was hard work for both of us. And that quickly became exhausting and disappointing. It was an emotional rollercoaster because we worked so hard with little progress. Don’t get me wrong she did succeed at a lot of things, but I always wanted more. I wanted her to understand what I was saying, to turn the pages of a book, to take a step independently, to feed herself, to look at me when I entered the room and so much more.
Then came Lexi, I didn’t have as much time to do therapy all day and quite frankly I was tired of doing it so we took a break. We continued therapy outside of the home and I still did some home therapy, but not nearly what I was doing before. I justified it by saying it’s time to accept a few things in life. I told myself she is never going to do a lot of the things I had in my head and I took the easy way out. Then about 3 years later it hit me like a ton of bricks, “What am I doing?” NOTHING. Was the answer and I felt tremendous guilt. If we had continued with intense home therapy would she be able to walk, talk or what else?
So we started working hard again and it paid off, now 3 years after that wake-up call Katie is doing some really exciting things. She knows her colors, some of the letters in her name and she nods her head “yes” and shakes her head “no” more and more every day. We are also working with a communication device to give her choices in life. Beautiful progress!
This scenario made me think of my own faith journey. What am I expecting of myself? How often do I hold myself to God’s standard? What am I accepting? How often do I say, “Oh well, I’m human I’m going to sin. As long as I ask for forgiveness, it’s okay.”
“So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48
My relationship with God is a process that never ends. When I become complacent, like I was with Katie’s therapy, I stop growing, stop progressing, just as she had. God wants me in constant motion moving toward Him, constantly learning more, striving to be better than I was yesterday. This comes from keeping my eyes on Him at all times. Taking time each day to learn more, to study the Bible and the teachings of the Church. It also comes from taking my focus off of myself and learning from the people that God has purposely put in front of me. Paying attention to what my friends, my priest and even the bank teller has to say, because God put these people in front of me for a reason, what can I learn from them?
So what does God mean when He says, “be perfect” in Matthew’s gospel? I think it means making a goal every day to not sin, I fall short, but if I never strive for perfection I will surely never succeed. And since I fall short I try to sit down on a regular basis and examine my conscience. I try to do this with a pen and paper. Where am I messing up? What are my weaknesses and how can I work to do better? This is the beauty of confession in the Catholic Church. Examining my life and saying my sins out loud to another human being is quite humbling and it really makes me stop and think. I’m far from perfect, and I often end up with the same shortcomings over and over again. But when I’m going to confession those shortcomings are on my mind and I consciously try to fix them.
So if God forgives us for our sins, if we only ask then why strive for perfection in this life? Because it is what God has asked of us. Reverend Ray Ryland says, “perfection means to realize fully your purpose on this earth. To strive to develop your unique potential under God to the fullest.” In other words be the very best me I can be. And always push Katie because she will continue to surprise us with her incredible abilities.
“Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others, knowing that you will receive from the Lord the due payment of the inheritance; be slaves of the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-25
I really want to know what you think. Please share a comment on what you have learned about striving for perfection in your own faith journey. I would love to learn more from you.