Last Sunday I mentioned offhandedly that I could preach an entire sermon on the title of a new book, Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House, by LA Times columnist, Megan Daum. I haven’t read the book, but I’ve been thinking about the title.
The title captures brilliantly (and honestly) the cry of each human heart. It describes the counterfeits our hearts long for.
First, we want life to be perfect. One of my seminary professors taught us to recognize such longing as a signal of transcendence. Longing like that, as C.S. Lewis said, indicates that we were created for a different world—namely a perfect one.
Second, we continually cast about for various things (in Daum’s case, houses) to find the perfection we crave. We are convinced that the ‘perfect life’ lies out there, within reach, if only we can buy the right thing or achieve the right milestone.
Mirror to our Souls
I listened to an NPR program with an interview of Daum. She describes herself, saying, “My house was really a mirror of my soul and until I found the right mirror, I just wasn’t going to be settled.”
Daum has incredible self-awareness to name her obsession (and even to call it a type of real-estate pornography). We might react to her statement by rolling our eyes. What foolishness! But that’s only because it’s so easy to spot another’s counterfeit. It’s more difficult to diagnose our own.
Whole industries are built on (and sustained by) our longings. For men, it’s more typically Life Would Be Perfect If I Drove That Car (be it a Ferrari or Prius) or Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived with That Girl (be it the flashing flesh of pornography or the smiling face of a friend’s wife).
True Mirror. True Perfection
The truth, however, is that the perfect life will never come from that house, or that car, of that girl. Using objects of consumption as mirrors of our souls, will never leave us settled. The only effective mirror for our souls is the image of God; the image we were created to bear. And lasting ‘perfection’ only comes from union with Jesus Christ—who is described, in Colossians 1, as ‘the image of the invisible God’ and the one by whom everyone will be presented ‘as mature’ (i.e. perfect).
An oft-cited portion of St. Augustine’s Confessions puts is well: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”