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Close Enough

“So, let’s go to the 10:00 service instead of the early one.”

“No, Mom! Don’t make us!”

“What’s wrong with that service?”

“Look at the church sign. It doesn’t get over until 12:00. We don’t want to go to a two-hour service on vacation… or ever!”

I scanned the white board in front of the church. Sure enough there it was: “Finnish service 12:00” It was just one letter off, but that sign took on a whole new meaning for our three young ones. Thankfully we did “finish” the 10:00 service the next morning long before the “Finnish” congregation arrived.

It can make all the difference when an extra letter or word is added or left out. Or when an arrow is pointing in the wrong direction. Driving through northern Mississippi a few years ago, we turned off the freeway and decided to try the Waffle House. Even after thirteen years living in the South and countless trips across our country, we had never stopped at one of these fast food breakfast places. The arrow on the list of restaurants clearly pointed to the left. But after a fruitless search, we stopped at a gas station to top off our tank and ask for directions.

“Oh, you should have turned to the right. The arrow on that sign’s been wrong for years. But it’s been great for my business, so I haven’t bothered to tell the highway department.”

Close enough just doesn’t cut it for lots of things. A wrong shade on a porcelain crown can spoil a smile. If my bite is off just a little, I’ll get a sore jaw within days. Instruments and voices need to be right on pitch. Back in high school, however, I was a bit off key with my sense of humor. We sopranos used to drive our choir director to distraction by taking turns singing slightly flat or sharp during warm ups. He could never figure out just where that random sound was coming from.

Some people are more sensitive to things not being exact. They can never settle for “close enough.” A picture isn’t exactly straight, so they’ll measure and pound until the wall resembles a sieve. Students with obsessive-compulsive tendencies will wear a hole in their paper erasing and rewriting to get a letter perfect. Thank goodness for keyboards and typing or they would never be able to move on.

For some things, however… if it affects me… I have to get it better than just close enough. Spelling. Matching paint on the wall. Adjusting the lengths of legs on a table so it doesn’t wobble even the tiniest bit. Just call me picky.

The architect of the St. Louis Arch… that 630-foot-tall “Gateway to the West”… had to be picky. The width between the legs needed to be also 630 feet, exactly. And those legs had to line up to within 1/64 of an inch. If not, that icon wouldn't be standing more than fifty years later.

It depends on which side of “close enough” you are. If it really matters to you, you don’t want to settle for less. If it truly affects you, it has to be right. And if something actually isn’t going to work properly, close enough will be a disaster. But if I’m waiting for someone to get it “just right” so life can resume, or if I’ve worked and worked at something that was obviously never going to be perfect, I’m clearly going to declare, “Close enough!”

Imagine if God had ever said, “Close enough.” There would be no symmetry in creation. Mathematics and physics would make no sense. What if our Lord Jesus had stopped short of feeding all of those hungry people on the mountain… or didn’t cure all ten of the lepers.

Or what if our Savior had stopped short of the cross. “I put up with the insults, the beatings and torture. No farther. Close enough.” Or maybe said, “Not dying for all of those sins of the world. There are a few I’m just not taking on.”

Some people live their lives as “close enough” thinking that God will be happy with a best effort. They strive tirelessly hoping their attempts to be close enough will please Him. After all He doesn’t really expect perfection, does He?

But it’s abundantly clear He does demand just that: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 RSV). “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (James 2:10 RSV).

And it’s abundantly clear that I’ll never get it right even to 1/64 of an inch. There's no point making excuses for my failings or trying to cover them up.

My Lord Jesus knows that. That’s why He did it all… perfectly. He takes away that perfection burden so I don’t have to struggle or obsess in my efforts. He also puts the Spirit of His joy in my life because I know I don’t have to waste my time worrying about something I can never accomplish.

There will be perfection, however. What a perfect day it will be when I can actually feel His touch as I walk into His loving arms of forgiveness!

And what a thrill it will be when I hear Him say, “Now you really are close enough... close enough to Me!”

Leaving my guilt at the cross,



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