Here’s a confession. Something I’m sure you know about me but I don’t like to admit. Something I’d rather not say, but for the sake of honesty and transparency and vulnerability and all that good stuff here it goes: I’m not perfect.
Oh really? You already knew that? Well, congratulations for arriving at this conclusion long before I showed up.
I’ve always known I wasn’t perfect currently, but I think in the back of my subconscious there’s this idea that I could become perfect. That, with enough determination, grit, and elbow grease I could squeeze some perfection out of my not-too-shabby life. After all I was a musician, and “practice makes perfect” was the annoying sing-song motto beaten into our heads from day one.
But let me tell you this:
Practice doesn’t make perfect.
I hate that this is true. I hate that no matter how hard I strive and push, no matter how much I ball my hands into fists and clench my teeth, no matter how many times I pull myself back up and promise I’ll do better, I won’t be perfect.
Practice doesn’t make perfect. It can’t. We aren’t capable of perfection. We are wired to fail, to make mistakes, to glitch. We can try, try again, and we might see improvement, but we won’t ever be perfect.
So please, teachers and coaches and parents of all kinds, stop indoctrinating the poor children under your influence. Practice does not make better, because perfection is impossible.
But it can make you better.
And better is good.
Lately yoga has been my thing. I love the way it notices each muscle group, I love how it integrates mind and body, I love how it builds strength slowly and silently without all the grunting and heaving and throwing about of gym equipment. But most of all, I love how it is called a practice. Because no matter how good you get, how strong you are, there’s the idea that we all have room to grow, we’re all still learning, we’re all just doing the best we can with the bodies we have. You don’t hear about yoga champions, there’s not a grand prize to win or end goal to achieve. We just show up to our mats and practice.
So I’m there, sprawled out on my mat, stretching and strengthening, growing and learning, and as I inhale I wonder. What if we were to live our lives this way?
What if we practiced our way through our days? What would it look like if we approached our diets and exercises and work and play and relationships and homes and hobbies with the mindset of practice?
We might wake up each morning a little lighter, a little freer. We could enter our day a little less obsessed with winning and a little more ok with messing up. We would learn it is ok to simply show up and do the best we have with the lives that we have.
Jesus called it the unforced rhythms of grace.
I’m calling it practice.
Not because practice makes perfect, but because practice makes better.
So I eat a full serving of protein for breakfast, and have a salad for lunch and I don’t beat myself down when I eat cookies for dinner. I go for a run one morning and lift weights the next and when I sleep late one day I don’t call myself a failure. I wake my husband gently, and I smile at him when he needs reassurance and when I jump to conclusions and act out of anger I ask for forgiveness and move on without berating myself for being a horrible wife. I pay the internet bill on time and I clean the bathroom weekly and I laugh about my inability to get those dentist appointments scheduled. I drink eight glasses of water six days of the week and on the seventh when I forget and only drink coffee all day I decide I’ll try again tomorrow.
I’m practicing. I’m doing the best I can with the life I have and I know there will be days I live poorly, moments I am split and fragmented and acting out of exhaustion and broken places. But because I know I’m practicing I don’t let myself discount the moments I get right just because there are days I do it all wrong. I don’t shame myself for not having it all together when the truth is I have some of it together, and some is better than none.
Better isn’t perfect, but better is still good.
The mattering part isn’t our end result. That’s never what we were supposed to consume ourselves with. That’s not our job. God has taken that responsibility from us, with the promise that he will complete us, and has left us with one simple task: practice. Do your best with the life you have. Show up, day after day, do what you can, and never stop extending grace.
So, being the piano teacher I am (one that never spouts nonsensical lies about practicing making perfect) I’ve compiled a practice chart for you. A list of five minute actions you can insert into your day as you practice living into the life Christ’s called you to. Wholeness Practices, I call them. Because you can’t make yourself perfect, but you can become better, more whole, with just a little practice.