Perfect Systems

About once a year I come up with a new and improved brilliant plan to become more organized (and as a result be an overall better human, obviously).  A lot of them involve bins and folders and color coding and sometimes a trip to the craft store.  My most recent scheme was to have a plastic crate in the hallway out to our garage that could serve as sort of a ‘transition’ spot for things that needed to be sent on or returned or shipped elsewhere like library books, loaned tupperware, etc….  Thanks Pinterest!!!  So about nine months ago, while feeling like a G E N I U S over this new created system, I put some books that needed to be returned to friends into the Transition Bin

No clutter on our desk?  Check!

Returning items to people in a promptly manner?  Check!

Except…can you believe that those darn books ARE STILL SITTING in a stupid turquoise plastic crate in my garage?  I completely forgot about my brilliant idea and have yet to return these books to my friends.  (You know who you are, I’m so sorry!)

It was a really smart idea for handling such items provided that the person implementing this was not a scatterbrained, head-in-the-clouds kind of person.

I got pretty frustrated with myself over all this and a parade of unused chore charts, abandoned filing systems and wasted money at Staples floated through my mind, along with one very specific memory.   Back when Jon and I were not yet married, he was out of town for a work conference so I, pulling a CLASSIC new girlfriend move,   majorly cleaned and organized his house without him knowing, permitting or requesting.  Upon returning his immediate reaction was not oozing gratitude over how much better his house looked (it looked sooooo much better!), but rather he pointed out that just because I changed his piles of paper and laundry and books – didn’t mean I would change him.


But he was so right.  I hate that.

All the mail organizers in the world will not change the fact that my husband is, what I will affectionately call, a pack rat.  Alternatively, all the pretty multicolored crates in the world will not change the fact that I am, what I affectionately call, helter skelter.

Perfect systems + broken people = you still don’t have your books back. 

I have recently been studying the story of the Rich Young Ruler from the gospel of Mark.  It starts off like this,

As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 

There is, coincidentally, a Perfect System set up in scripture for us to be good human beings, a little something called The Ten Commandments.  Follow this and you will perfectly honor God and your family and your neighbor!

While Jesus sort of cuts this guy off at the pass…

“No one is good except God alone”

The man goes on anyways…

20 And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” (aka I am awesome sauce)

But secretly, waaayyyy  underneath it all, I wonder if he is as frustrated with himself as I am with myself?  I wonder if he is tired?  I wonder if, regardless of his striving he knows deep inside there must be something more, something he is missing?

The never ending list of things I have to do to be a good Christian stare me down.  And Jesus is soooooo serious about them all, I bet he is mad at me!  But this Perfect System will not change me.  If anything it just mocks me in my failure and impotency.

Neither does The Law change who I am in my core.  Nor could it truly change this man in scripture.

We’re all doomed I guess.

But fortunately, The Story goes on

21 Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

To be honest it’s easy to read something along the lines of “Close but no cigar, brah, try again, try harder!!” in how Jesus responds.  But I’m wrong in that.  God is actually not interested in putting more hoops to jump through in order to be saved.  He’s not suggesting ONE MORE SYSTEM of rules to see if WE CAN FINALLY GET IT RIGHT FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!  But perhaps instead He wants us to see our hearts as He sees them.

22 But at these words the man was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property

I wonder if he was sad over giving away his wealth, or sad because he was indeed able to see the state of his heart.

As Paul says in his letter to those legalistic Galatians

We know very well that we are not set right with God by rule-keeping but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ. How do we know? We tried it—and we had the best system of rules the world has ever seen! Convinced that no human being can please God by self-improvement, we believed in Jesus as the Messiah so that we might be set right before God by trusting in the Messiah, not by trying to be good.

After the rich guy leaves,  Jesus says some more hard things and the disciples share their reaction…

They were even more astonished and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”

So it is true you guys, I am not organized.  And to be honest I probably never will be even though once a year I will spend some cash on those pretty, floral organizers at Target. It’s probably for the best if you don’t loan me your things.  And it’s true that I still follow my husband around the house throwing away cleaning up his piles of clutter.

And maybe that’s okay, I’ll leave it to the Type-As.  Because when I look at who I am today it is truly nothing short of a miracle and sometimes I don’t even recognize myself.  To see the ways that God has completely changed me from the inside out, not through rules, but rather through the mysterious workings of a very Holy Spirit I am in awe and I have hope for myself and I indeed have hope for what happened with this rich guy in the bible.  I have proven to be pretty crappy at changing myself, even when I give it my best effort.

But what is impossible for me is done through God with power, completeness and goodness.

Now THIS is a perfect system!

Perfect System + Broken People = I am a new creation


Anne Lamott


One thought on “Perfect Systems

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s