Dec 18, 2007

The Perfection Infection

*This week is a little different. An editor for a ladies' Christian magazine has asked to see an article from me. I'm sending in the following piece. Let me know what you think. Also, I will be taking next week off since it is Christmas. I pray that your time with your family is Christ-centered and full of joy. Thanks for reading!*

Do you have that friend who can confront you on an ugly truth about yourself but leave you feeling like you’ve been embraced instead of slapped silly? Thankfully, I only have a few who are willing to try. Kathryn is one of those friends. We have known each other since age thirteen, so she has seen almost every facet of my personality. However, last year she became privy to a side of me that I have managed to hide pretty successfully because it is mostly an internal thing: my incessant need to be perfect. She became my boss, poor thing. She hired me to “teach” 2-year-olds. If she only knew what she had gotten herself into. Now, I adore tiny tots as much as the next gal, but to be the one solely responsible for their physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being? Eek! Every week they must review their alphabet, numbers and colors. They must craft, color and learn to play well with their classmates. They must be taught to sit where they’re told and to nap in the middle of the room on their mats. What? They’re two! They must be disciplined consistently but also loved and cherished. Oh, yes, and most importantly, they must learn about Jesus and give their hearts to Him by the end of the year. Okay, that last one is a lie.

Interestingly, Kathryn never told me every one of the requirements needed to be met every week. In fact, she specifically told me, “Toddlers are tough. Just do what you can. No pressure.” Where I got the idea that every single activity must be done and done at a Martha Stewart level, I do not know.

After a morning of watching me rush around the preschool building huffing and puffing because I couldn’t get the craft ready in time or the room prepared, she pulled me aside. How dare her? Couldn’t she see I was running behind? Anyway, I digress.

“Misti, relax! When did you become such a perfectionist and so hard on yourself? In high school I admired you because you were so confident. What happened to you?”

I didn’t have an answer. What had happened? When did it become okay to expect perfection from myself? As I sat and pondered that question, I realized that this Perfection Infection had invaded every part of my life like a cancer run amuck. I realized that I only feel “good enough” if I’m the mom who never yells at her little one, the employee who never makes a mistake in judgment, the daughter who never disappoints, and the wife that keeps a perfectly spotless house, has dinner on the table every night, and is always in the mood. Hadn’t I read something about all sinning and falling short of the glory of God? Wasn’t I expected to be weak since God clearly says that when we are weak He is strong, thus making it apparent that I will have weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:9)? Yet, here I am, descending into meltdown mode because I didn’t get the toys disinfected before the kids arrived.

And I see that I’m not the only one with this debilitating condition. As the wife of a youth minister, I get the privilege of forming relationships with women of all ages. Not only do I get to hang out with girls in their teens, but I get the opportunity to become friendly with their moms and sisters as well. And I witness the same tendencies in all of us, age 14 to 60. We are all unmercifully beating ourselves up for the tiniest missteps. The younger ones are shredding themselves to pieces because they asked someone a “stupid” question, and the older ones are doing the same because they can’t meet every need of every person in their families. Girls, we are not meant to live this way! We were never meant to strive to find perfection. We are not meant to try, try, and try again to reach unattainable goals of flawlessness—to only find peace when we make no mistakes. Amazingly, in Christ, we are enough.

You are enough.

God is clear. You are the apple of His eye (Zec. 2:8), the display of his splendor (Isa. 61:3), very good (Gen. 1:31), forgiven (Ps. 103:12), favored (Ps. 5:12) an object of his rejoicing (Zeph. 3:17). Surely, if I am the apple of God’s eye, I am special and valued. Surely, if God says I am very good then I am good enough. Surely, if God says I am forgiven, I can forgive myself.

I’ve had to come to the conclusion that I will never get it together completely. I will continue to make mistakes, but I do not embody them. Yes, I’m going to sometimes give my husband attitude; my patience will run low with my stop and smell the roses 3-year-old, and I will never know all the answers to all the questions my teens will ask. But I will choose not to “snowball” into thinking I’m a horrible wife, the worst mother in all of America, or an imbecile who shouldn’t be teaching the youth of this world anything. Although I know this territory quite well, journeying down that familiar road is not an option.

Finding our peace with our limited selves is all about choice. Will we believe the lie that we must be good enough to be genuinely loved? Or will we choose to trust the truth that weaves itself through Scripture from Genesis to Revelation: that we are fully forgiven and scandalously loved despite our imperfections? It is a choice. We decide either to remain in our spiritual sickbed or resolve to rise and be healed. Believe. Choose to believe. That is where your healing is.

You are loved and you are enough simply because you are His.

Father, thank You that You love us dearly in the midst of all of our weaknesses. And thank You that You promise to meet us where we are, love us richly, and tenderly mold us into the women You desire us to be. Help us to be cooperative and believe what You're saying and walk in Your truth. We love You. Amen.


Anonymous said...

I like the line "I will choose". I sometimes forget that it's my choice to how I react to things.

Anonymous said...

"finding our peace" and "choosing to belive" jumped out at me. You reminded me that we can't have peace unless we truly believe!

Anonymous said...

I forget that I am favored and the apple of His eye. Brought tears to my eyes.

Bev Brandon said...

I loved it that your friend who knew you well asked you, "when did you become so hard on yourself?" I have finally found a friend this year who will ask me hard questions and it has made me deal with the fray of my heart like never before. You write so well from your heart---I'm bookmarking this blog. Katie sent me over. Beautiful words of truth.