On Lap Swimming and Spiritual Perfection

So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48

Perfect? Really, Lord? Me? Couldn’t I just be “kinda perfect” or “trying my best to be perfect”?!

These were some of the thoughts ringing in my head this morning as I prayed my way through today’s gospel. As often as I’ve read Matthew 5:48, you’d think that I’d get over my spiritual whining and simply accept the fact that Jesus called his disciples — and us too — to greater things.

As I read the gospel and chugged my dark roast coffee, I was distracted by random aching in unusual parts of my limbs. On Sunday, without much fanfare or philosophical pondering, I turned 51. So yesterday, as I’m prone to do on Mondays (and the days after my birthday), I recommitted myself to some healthy living promises — my own birthday presents to myself. If my track record holds true, I’ll have to recommit again next Monday after falling off the wagon later this week. But I’ll keep trying, because I’m an optimist.

But back to that soreness. I’ve been searching for a kickstart to my workouts. I’m bored with walking and not yet physically up to running again, so I decided to take advantage of the lovely pool in my backyard to try lap swimming. I treated myself to a new swim mask and some earplugs (which, wow, make a ton of difference!) and spent some time simply and slowly winding my way back and forth.

My body felt buoyant, weightless. The cracks in my knees and the stiffness of my back were absent in the perfectly blue water. I didn’t last long, but I felt my heart-rate rise and that made my soul happy.

Until I woke up this morning. When I went to get out of bed, I realized how very sore I was. In weird places. Apparently those particular muscles haven’t been used in a while. They are rusty, complaining about being worked when they would rather simply sit at the desk and write or chat or watch a video.

They have a long way to go to be “perfect”.

Not that she’s “perfect”, but when I think of lap swimming I like to ponder “Liv” from Scandal in the pool:

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In reality, right now I look more like a 51 year old walrus than Liv in that white bathing suit. But those muscles, the ones that are sore today, need to be worked to become stronger if I have any hope of being a perfect swimmer.

The same holds true for my spiritual “perfection”. The parts of myself that are far from perfect must be taken out and exercised. The parts of me that are my excuse for not fully living Matthew 5:48 aren’t dead. They are simply out of shape. Using them will probably hurt. But if I don’t try, there is not a hope in the world that I can rise to Christ’s call.

Love my enemies.

Pray for those who persecute me.

Keep adding one more lap a day in the spiritual “pool” of my life, just as it is.

Strive for perfect.

Image based on art by Ververidis Vasilis / Shutterstock.com

About Lisa M. Hendey

Lisa Hendey is the founder and webmaster of CatholicMom.com and the author of The Grace of YesA Book of Saints for Catholic Moms and The Handbook for Catholic Moms. Lisa writes for several online and print publications, enjoys speaking around the country and is a frequent television and radio guest and host. Visit her at LisaHendey.com.


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