My grandfather was an amateur artist. He painted in oils and watercolors and my mother’s house had many of his paintings hanging in it. My brother, when he was in college, began studying photography and taking pictures of landscapes in his travels. When I was in college I took up charcoal drawing and did several pieces for classes and also for fun.
My mother decided that she wanted to decorate one of the walls in her house with the works of my grandfather, my brother and me. She hung her favorite painting by my grandfather on a wall and then asked both my brother and me for a framed work to hang alongside the painting. We each gave my mother what she requested. My brother gave her a very nice picture of a mountain stream and I took to work on a view of a building on the campus of the University of Florida.
I worked hard on the drawing and was determined to get it done and framed by her birthday. For years it hung prominently in the living room of my mother’s house and each time I visited I was faced with it. I say faced with it because I worked so hard to get it done that I overlooked many problems with the drawing. The composition was bad, the perspective was wrong, the technique was varied and uneven. It was just a bad drawing. After seeing it on several visits I finally told my mother how bad I thought it was. She told me that she loved it; I had drawn it especially for her, I had worked hard on it and she was honored to have it hang in her living room.
After that, whenever I visited her I was faced with a terrible drawing but I was also faced with the love and grace that can look at an imperfect gift and see a perfect offering. You know, perfection is a funny thing. We often expect it out of ourselves and others but we rarely attain it. One definition of perfection is a¸ state of completion. We live in a world that is not complete. We live as people who are still in the process of becoming. Therefore, by definition, we are imperfect people and we always will be.
This morning Jesus tells us a parable about the process towards completion or perfection. A man sows wheat but tares also grow up alongside his wheat. Instead of ripping out the tares and taking the risk of uprooting his wheat he decides to let the two grow side by side and to separate them at the harvest.
Now at first glance this may seem to be a parable about the final judgment; the time when those faithful to God will be separated from those who are not faithful to God. Certainly there is that aspect to this story but it is also a parable of grace.
As we focus on the image of separating the wheat from the tares we lose the image of the man’s patience who would let the tares grow among the wheat until the harvest. Deep within our hearts we each have wheat and tares growing. The process towards perfection is deciding which to nurture.
Perfection, in the Christian life, is not so much about being perfect but overcoming imperfection within our lives. The issue for a faithful Christian, in all honesty, is more about perseverance rather than perfection. The tares were left alongside the wheat. We are left in a broken world. We are healed and yet broken people. We are, in ourselves, both wheat and tares.
Do not despair your temptations or your imperfections; they are simply the shadows made by the light of Christ in our lives.
Notice at the end of the parable Jesus does not say that evildoers alone will be separated from the righteous but all the causes of sin. That tells us that even to the end we will be battling against our shortcomings. The grace of Jesus Christ is that our brokenness does not keep us from him. The tares did not keep the wheat from growing and thriving or from being wheat; neither will the tares in our heart choke out the wheat if we continues to nourish the wheat.
I had a friend in college who used to wear a pin that said, “Be patient, God is not finished with me yet.” God’s patience and love is such that He does not seek to destroy us but to build us up. God does not want to condemn us but transform us into his likeness. I wonder, how many times do we separate ourselves from God believing that we are not worthy? But we are worthy. We are not perfect but we are worthy of God’s love. To act, speak or believe that we are not, is perhaps the most insidious and destructive sin that we can commit.
If we were not worthy of God’s love would he have come among us and lived and died for us? God did not redeem us because he had to but because he longed to do so.
My mother loved her drawing. The biggest problem with the drawing was that it was unfinished; it was not complete. It hung on her wall as if it were in a gallery when it should still have been on an easel.
Today we are called to offer up our own lives not as completed compositions but as works in progress. Though we have hearts full of tares, God wants them. Though we have lives full of sin, God wants them. Though we may not even want ourselves, God wants us. Today we are called to give our imperfect lives to God for they are truly perfect offerings.