Our wonderful guest blogger Rev. Richard Pennystan, vicar at St Chad's in Romiley, has had some brilliant thoughts this summer for starting the new Uni year. We reckon this is very apt for this moment in time...
After some great dad & daughter time on the journey to Uni, Naomi’s dad takes her out for a fantastic lunch, helps carry her bags and stuff up and gets her settled in to halls. As he gives her a hug and says goodbye his final words are; “Be perfect”.
Tim’s church pray for him on the final Sunday before heading off to Uni and as they finish the pastor grabs the microphone, puts his arm around Tim and says ‘We’re all with you and we’ll be praying for you, just make sure you behave perfectly at Uni’.
A close friend of mine felt that he should make a stand for God as he started Uni and chose not drink any alcohol during Freshers’ week. Back in that era of history Red Bull was hardly known and they gave each fresher a promotional can in their welcome pack, so his mates all gave him theirs to drink instead of beer. He drank 10 cans and didn’t sleep for 3 nights! Which wasn’t quite his plan of a perfect start to Uni.
If you’re heading off to Uni or back to Uni this month, (or whatever you’re heading into) then how do you respond to the pressure to be ‘perfect’?
Jesus tells us to in Matthew 5v48, but what does he mean by that?
There are two ways of marking academic work, negatively or positively. Negative marking starts with 100% and then knocks marks off for every mistake you make, every failure loses you points. Positive marking starts with what's been written, sees what's good there, what shows potential and then looks for what is not yet complete, what still needs developing, where there's more to learn.
So the question is, how does God look at our lives?
Very often we take the English word ‘perfect’ and think in terms of negative marking and ensuring we get 100%. Make one mistake and you’ve blown it. Think of Tom Daley and the show-jumping in the Olympics, one mistake and all medal hopes were gone. That’s great tense TV for us on our sofas, but its no way to live life.
The word in the Bible that we translate ‘perfect’ sees things differently. It’s the word for hitting a target, being complete, being filled up, being whole.
I went off to Uni 18 years ago trying to be perfect, trying to get everything right, afraid of failure as a Christian, afraid I might upset God if I chose the wrong church or didn’t share my faith enough, afraid I might ruin my life up if I didn’t behave myself or do it all perfectly. As a result I had no joy in my life in my first 2years and burned out as a Christian before I stopped trying to impress God.
Ask any Christian leader you respect how they got on with being perfect when they were your age.
If you’re heading to Uni this term, God isn’t waiting to mark you negatively, he’s not setting you an impossible standard of perfection to attain and waiting to punish you when you fail. He’d prefer you to know that he’s there with you, he’s for you and not against you. He wants you to know his joy, build great friendships and know that you can turn to him every time you mess things up and He’ll forgive you.