Recently, before my doctor came in for my annual wellness exam, the nurse asked what medications and supplements I take. When I finished listing them, she said, “Perfect!” That made me feel really good. Especially since, being a writer, I hold words in high regard. Based on what she said, I concluded I must be taking the right medications and vitamins perfectly, even in the proper dosages. Couldn’t be doing better. Who doesn’t want to be perfect?
Of course, I doubt that’s exactly what she meant. I didn’t ask for her definition of “perfect.” But since people seem to like using that word a lot I suppose it was…perfectly fine.
But leaning toward being a verbal literalist, perfect is a term I rarely utilize. Because my understanding of the word means to be ideal, with no room for improvement.
Just to be sure I wasn’t too much of a nitpicker, I researched definitions of perfect. They include, “having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be,” or “absolute; complete,” or “free from faults or defects, or as close to such a condition as possible.”
When the nurse responded with “perfect!” I doubt she meant any of those. “Okay,” or “good” might have been more accurate, but these days lots of things are perfect. Things like, “At the grocery store, I bought a loaf of bread.” “Perfect.” Or, “I will call you between 2 and 2:30.” “Perfect.” (Wouldn’t it be even more “perfect” to specify the exact minute you would be calling?)
If “perfect” isn’t your word of choice, however, there’s a great alternative: Awesome. For example, when I recited my lists of meds and vitamins, according to today’s word usage, the nurse legitimately could have replied, “Awesome!” It would have been good to know my use of vitamin C, fish oil and glucosamine is awesome, don’t you think?
Why make such a big deal over this? Well, it’s because words have an inherent grandeur, especially superlatives. And when I look for an example of perfection – something that’s truly perfect – I believe there’s just one option: God. Psalm 18:30-32 tells us, “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.”
Jesus gave His followers a perplexing directive when, after teaching they were to love not only their neighbors, but also their enemies, He said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). That’s something worth serious pondering, especially when we know that, flawed individuals that we are, “Nobody’s perfect.”
Other translations of these and other passages use the word “complete” instead of “perfect.” Think of following a favorite recipe that you or someone you know has used for years. What happens if just one ingredient is omitted? It doesn’t taste nearly as good, because it’s not complete.
This is why Colossians 1:28 declares that our mission in representing Jesus Christ is to “proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect [complete] in Christ.” Without the power of Jesus working in and through us, we’re incomplete.
As for those who prefer an “awesome” perspective on life, Deuteronomy 7:21 admonishes that when we encounter stiff opposition, “Do not be terrified by them, for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a great and awesome God.” A bit later, Deuteronomy 10:17 elaborates a bit: “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.”
Nehemiah, who was instrumental in the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the Israelites had been taken captive in Babylon, opened up his prayer for God’s gracious intervention with these words: “O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands” (Nehemiah 1:5). Speaking to God was no small matter. So in presenting his requests, Nehemiah – a humble cupbearer for king Artaxerxes – assumed an attitude of reverent awe.
In the Psalms we see the writers often acknowledging the awesomeness of God:
“You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior…who formed the mountains by your power…who stilled the roaring of the seas” (Psalm 65:5-7).
"Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious! Say to God, ‘How awesome area your deeds! So great is your power…. Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf!” (Psalm 66:1-5).
There are many other passages we could cite. But it’s clear that when it comes to “perfect” or “awesome,” those words shouldn’t be tossed about indiscriminately. When we think about God – who He is and all He has done – there’s really no comparison. But if we’re walking with the Lord, seeking to rest in His love and grace even during the most trying times, we’re justified in wanting to experience an awesome, perfect, couldn’t be any better day!
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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is email@example.com.