Perfection is not what you think it is

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.—Philippians 3:12-14

Illustration by Ilco http://www.sxc.hu/profile/ilco

Illustration by Ilco

Many writers, in many forums, have asked how they can eliminate all the errors from their manuscripts. I hate to say it, but you can’t. We are human, and we will make mistakes. You can hire multiple proofreaders — eight is not too many — but there comes a point of diminishing returns. Every additional proofreader you hire increases your cost and decreases your profit. A team of trained professionals decreases the odds of a typo making it into print, but it’s no guarantee. We saw this often at the newspaper, where the occasional error got through despite pages being read by four or five people.

We can no more eradicate every flaw from our manuscripts than we can eradicate every flaw from our human nature. The point is not to be actually perfect, but to get as close to perfection as we can at our current stage of development.

“In passages like Matthew 5:48, where Jesus instructs us to ‘be perfect . . . as your heavenly Father is perfect,’ He’s not saying that He expects you to live without a single flaw or bobble. You are being invited into a life of wholeness and completeness. That’s what the biblical word perfect means. It’s not a standard of faultless accuracy and precision but rather an invitation to devote the whole of yourself—your time and your talents—toward the completion of the tasks He’s appointed.” — Priscilla Shirer, The Resolution for Women

The Greek word telios evokes the idea of reaching the end, of being complete. It’s primarily a physical word but also an ethical one. We approach “perfection” in this sense when we are working toward fulfilling God’s call on our lives. Of course, that requires discerning what our call is. But it’s all part of the journey.

In the same way, God has a purpose for our stories. For a while there, I had to consider that perhaps the only purpose of Alara’s Call was to teach me some lessons about pride and humility. As I fuss over the last edit before shipping the manuscript to my publisher, I wrestle with this issue of perfection. This book is as far from perfect as its author is. But we’re getting there. And I believe we’re fulfilling the purposes for which we were made. That’s the real goal.


About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

2 comments on “Perfection is not what you think it is

  1. I love it when God does more than one thing at a time, especially when it looks like He’s done.

    If you want another set of eyes, I’m willing.

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