I was thumbing through a special "bridal" section of my local paper today when I was struck by the number of ads for plastic surgery mixed in with the ads for gown shops and limo services. I couldn't help but feel sad over it. Is this what we've come to? A young woman preparing for marriage now not only has to pick out dresses and invitations but also various surgical procedures to bring herself up to speed for the big day?
And that got me thinking about something that's been on my mind a lot lately: our society's constant quest for what it views as "perfection." We all heard, after the fact, that the classical interlude at President Obama's inauguration, featuring greats like Itzhak Perlman and Yo Yo Ma, was prerecorded to prevent any flubs. The same goes for the stellar "performances" by Faith Hill and Jennifer Hudson at the Superbowl on Sunday. They were prerecorded, officials said, because "the slightest glitch would devastate the performance."
That pretty much sums up the prevailing point of view in popular culture these days, doesn't it? The "slightest glitch," be it a missed note in the National Anthem or a nose that doesn't live up to magazine model standards, is too devastating to consider. Have we become so obsessed with avoiding glitches that we would rather take fake perfection than real life with its often beautiful flaws? How did we as a culture lose sight of the fact that the things that are not perfect are usually the very things that make us interesting, that seeing someone achieve near perfection without any help from surgeons or back-up recordings is much more powerful than a flawless but fake end goal.
Once again, it is our Church that remains the counter-cultural voice of reason, reminding us that perfection comes in a very different package than we might expect. Sure, Jesus said, "Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect," (Matthew 5:48), but he wasn't talking about liposuction and lip-syncing, he was actually referring to loving our enemies and praying for those who hate us. How's that for turning the idea of perfection on its head?
In these days of downsizing and real financial devastation that can not be quick-fixed with a nip and a tuck, it's reassuring to remember that God does not expect the kind of perfection that strains our pocketbooks. What He desires is something much more affordable. He wants our hearts and souls, glitches and all.