Recently I have been visiting a young woman who had a traumatic brain injury after a car accident.
Her mother called us, from Montana, asking if someone could go visit her daughter. She is living in a rehabilitation facility not far from my congregation, getting therapy and hoping to heal. It's a large, impressive campus, but until last month, I had no idea that it existed. Her mother called at least in part because her daughter wants to go to church. She was brought up Lutheran.
This young woman has short-term memory issues. It's difficult to remember what just happened, or what you just said to her. What is the name of my church? What time do we worship on Sunday? Even though I just told her those things, she doesn't remember.
Before her accident, she was a pre-med student. She remembers her studies well. She was a good student. She wants to go back and continue her studies. She still wants to be a doctor. Her father even told her, there must be a reason that you survived the accident. There must be something that God wants you to do.
She is sure that God wants her to be a doctor. That is who she is. It is frustrating not to be able to get going.
When I read the end verses of the gospel reading for this week, I can't help thinking about her. "Be Perfect, as your Heavenly Father is Perfect." There are lots of ways to think about being perfect. I was an oldest child, so I know a lot of them.
Get a perfect score on the test.
Be perfectly well-mannered.
Be perfectly attractive.
Never make a mistake.
I don't know this young woman well, but I wonder if she learned some of these ways of being perfect. You have to be pretty over-achieving to be a doctor. You have to be pretty close to perfect.
"Be perfect, as you heavenly father is perfect." Some of us spend our whole lives striving for it, and also spend our whole lives believing we are not good enough.
But what if this is what it means to be perfect: To be who you are, just as God is perfectly who God is. We are all broken, but we are also becoming who God wants us to be. We are all broken, but we all have a purpose, a reason we are here. And to trust that is to be perfect.
Maybe it is to be a doctor. But maybe it is just to be You, in all parts of your life, and to strive to be more and more You through all of your life.
This young woman wants more than anything to come to church. She doesn't remember everything, but she remembers that she is a child of God. It is a start.