“Why is it wet?” I demanded. As my fourteen-year-old son Jed and I began to place the top of the artificial tree on the stand, I felt a wet spot. I knew the tree had been dry in the box in the garage. Jed looked at me and then said, “I think the dog peed on it.” I’d put the three sections of the tree on the floor for only a few minutes, but the dog had seized on the novel concept that a shrub had appeared in the living room. My sixteen-year-old daughter Riley started laughing uproariously, and said, “this is so 2020.”
We decided that the defiled tree had fulfilled its purpose after many years of service to our family, and the clear lights that originally adorned the tree no longer worked. The new tree we purchased also came pre-lit, but the lights on this updated model could change from clear to rainbow colored. Thus, began the subdued light war between Jed and me. He likes the multi-colored lights, but I prefer the clear ones. So, I change them to clear, and when he goes through the living room, he changes them back to multi-colored. Back and forth we go. We don’t say anything about it, we just surreptitiously act. It’s a little like that scene in Disney’s animated classic “Sleeping Beauty” in which the fairies magically change Princess Aurora’s dress from pink to blue over and over again.
Neither Jed nor I are wrong, we just prefer different displays of lights. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter which color lights decorate our tree. They both feel festive and look quite lovely. It’s become a running joke between Jed and me. Sometimes in life though, we let our preferences get in the way of things that don’t actually have a right or wrong answer. This can manifest itself in silly ways, such as rearranging the dishes in the dishwasher when you don’t like how someone else has done it. But at other times, our desire for a particular outcome or for another person to behave in a certain way turns into an expectation for perfection that we can’t shake. We impose those standards on ourselves as well. All of which often leads to disappointment.
I’ve read a lot of author Gretchen Rubin’s books on happiness and personality types, and she frequently quotes Voltaire, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” One of my favorite themes of the Bible is how God uses imperfect people and imperfect situations to further his work and demonstrate his love. We don’t just read about the best days of the Biblical characters, but we see their weaknesses and the ways they messed up, sometimes repeatedly. God doesn’t allow our human failings to get in the way of the good he can accomplish through us. And we shouldn’t allow any unrealistic expectations to blind us to the good we can find in others.
If we focus on the light that shines in others, then we can help them gleam whether they shine in a serene manner or in a brightly colored way. God simply wants our lights to glow in the darkness for him.