Stop Fighting for Perfection
Any perfectionists out there? This one’s for you, and for me. Because as much as I like to think I’ve conquered my propensity for perfectionism, there’s still a part of me that falls prey to it. In my roles as a wife, mom, friend, neighbor, and believer, I sometimes face the temptation to base my self-worth on a checklist of characteristics instead of checking in with a God who cherishes me in my highs and my lows.
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of putting all the emphasis on what we do, instead of who (and whose) we are, with some deep part of us believing we have to prove ourselves worthy of God and the world’s love and approval.
Today I want to encourage you to grow in God’s grace to become the individual he created you to be!
WHY WE CHASE PERFECTION
What does perfectionism look like in your life? Maybe you feel you need to perform constantly to be accepted in a community like your church, your child’s school, or work.
Or perhaps, if you’re honest, you find yourself performing to stay in God’s good graces, overwhelmed by the magnitude of his love and trying desperately to earn it in some way.
When you’re passing your self-prescribed tests with flying colors, meeting your standards, and pleasing the people around you, perfectionism can feel really validating (albeit stressful).
But when you fail, perfectionism is particularly painful.You love Jesus, you want to follow him, and you know the right thing to do, but you end up sinning anyway, and all those high standards come crashing down on you.
Whether it’s a harsh word spoken to your spouse, surrender to a temptation, or being consumed by social media instead of God’s Word, you end up kicking yourself, wondering internally if there’s something wrong with you.
Pursuing perfectionism is a slippery slope, one that can lead to feelings of doubt, distance from God, and a deteriorating self-worth.
There’s a reason for those feelings, one woven into your being by your Creator. You see, you and I were never created to sin, or to know the consequences of it.
Piecing Together the Puzzle
Let’s go back to where it all began, the Garden of Eden, to put the pieces together.
In the story that set the stage for all of humanity, Adam and Eve’s sin signified a separation from God and came with seemingly harsh consequences. Sometimes when we look at the Old Testament, it’s easy to only look at God’s judgment on the pages we read, completely missing out on his ever-present grace. But every small story in God’s Word is a piece of an enormous puzzle that spans all of human history (If you think a 1000-piece Thomas Kinkade puzzle is big, think bigger!)
We know the verdict God handed down that day; Scripture spells it out clearly.
But have you ever wondered why God issued that sentence, or what the alternative might be?
God created human beings to live forever. You and I have eternity written on our hearts. It’s at our core.
While we were designed for eternity, we were not designed for sin or its shame.
So God, in his loving mercy, reached into the situation and saved Adam and Eve from living forever with the curse of sin upon their heads, knowing the weight was too much to bear. Don’t isolate that piece of the puzzle from the rest, because when you interlock it with the New Testament, a beautiful portrait starts to emerge. Death was not the curse; sin was.
There’s a reason God didn’t dole out community service hours or a temporary sentence to be served that would allow Adam and Eve to re-enter the Garden and live forever. In light of the curse of sin, death is a gift, one that comes to fruition at the center of the puzzle, the empty tomb. In Christ, we are restored to our original creation, able to live sinless in communion with God for eternity.
God didn’t give Adam and Eve a checklist to earn his forgiveness then, and he doesn’t give us one today (What a relief!).
Instead of judgment, yesterday, today, and forever, God offers grace. It was there in the garden, and it’s here now, ready to transform you from seeking perfection to seeking his plan.
Before we move forward, I want to make sure one thing is abundantly clear to you: God does not expect perfection from you.
He is in love with you, not what you do; but what you do does matter.
As Christians, we’re called to become like Christ. It’s a process, one with ups and downs, victories and losses, called sanctification. On this road of sanctification, we learn how to be like Jesus in a world that doesn’t live like him with a sin self that doesn’t always want to pursue him.
But so often, instead of focusing on who we’re becoming in him, we shift the focus to what we do for him. And it’s an easy trap to fall into, laced with pure, pretty intentions. After all, we’re talking about ministering, volunteering at school, going to Bible studies, and serving at church, all the things we should be doing, right?
A Perfect Score
If we try to anticipate what God expects of us and bank all of our hopes on achieving those actions, we’re cheating. And the answers we’re using to cheat are destined to fail.
Because sanctification isn’t a multiple choice test, and God isn’t scoring his love and forgiveness for you based on an answer key.
No matter how many “right” things you or I do, those actions will never be enough to justify us or earn God’s grace. But the most beautiful component of the story is that we don’t need to earn it! The test has been passed, our grade received.
The Message puts it perfectly, pun intended, in Hebrews 10:14:
“It was a perfect sacrifice by a perfect person to perfect some very imperfect people.
By that single offering, he did everything that needed to be done for everyone who takes part in the purifying process.”
When Jesus uttered the words, “It is finished” on the cross, it truly was finished.
He is perfection, and if we step out of the way and stop trying to finish the perfect work of the cross, we can actually play a part in the purifying (sanctifying) process. Because when we focus on becoming more like Jesus, our actions follow suit.
Loving Jesus more than our perfection isn’t always easy. To the reader who’s juggling an array of obligations, putting all your energy into keeping the balls from bouncing to the floor, find hope in this beautiful promise from your Savior:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…”(2 Cor. 12:9).
And like Paul, I pray that you and I “will boast all the more gladly of [our] weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon [us].”
We are abundantly loved and made perfect in Christ, so let’s stop juggling, rest in his grace, and focus on becoming more like him!