Friday, January 16, 2015

An Encouraging Word for Imperfect Perfectionists

You're sitting at your desk, papers strung haphazardly across the top, laptop dying because you can't find the cord that's stashed away somewhere with your focus and determination.

We’ve all been there.

Sometimes, life just gets overwhelming. All of our responsibilities pile up until the to-do list is too long to handle, whether that be composed of work, school, personal goals, or all of the above. We want to make sure everything is done right, that everything is perfect.

And it holds us back.

Suddenly the tasks we thought we could handle are impossible, the things we want to accomplish are unattainable. We can feel God tugging on our hearts to fulfill His calling, but we’re so caught up in day-to-day life that we shove the most important things to the back corner, doomed to gather dust until we are totally prepared and organized and ready.

It’s easy to get the idea that we need to do everything perfectly, especially as Christians. We feel the immense pressure to represent Christ to the world, to fulfill our greater purpose. We want to go, and do, and accomplish.

We take it on ourselves to bear our heavy load, to try and meet our ideals about our work, our educations, even our faith.

But maybe that’s the problem. Not that we’re striving for excellence, but that we’re striving to meet our standards of excellence.

We may truly want to glorify God in our lives, but it’s all too easy to jump ahead and decide on our own exactly what that means. We want a long term plan, sure that if we accomplish what looks good to us, it will look good to God.

That’s where the whole problem gets started: We are deciding what is and is not acceptable. We are taking control, judging ourselves by our high standards.

But what we often forget is that our standards don’t really matter. In fact, the only ideals that do matter are God’s. 

We are to be mimicking Christ, not fulfilling our own ideas.

        "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation: Because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy." (1 Peter 1:15-16, KJV)  

Ahh, holiness. The very definition of Perfectionism. The complete absence of sin.

Totally sounds like something we can do, right?

I thought so.

So, basically, there is no way we can meet the ideals that actually matter. But don’t let this fact depress you. You see, perfectionism sinks its teeth into someone who is trying to do things the right way on their own. God doesn't ask us to do this on our own. He doesn't expect us to be able to match His holiness through our own strength.

In the end, we are not doing God’s work for God. He does his own work.

But He has chosen to do that through us. 

It isn’t our job to figure it all out. We aren’t running around accomplishing God’s work or perfecting ourselves, God is using us to achieve His plan. HE knows the whole scheme of things. HE sees the big picture. We are designed to live in a moment to moment submission to Christ, following after his goodness.

So we don’t have to have to be completely on top of things. We don’t have to understand, to struggle against our frail humanity. We just have to live in submission to God, because when we do that, He leads the way. 
It's time we stopped letting perfectionism get in the way. 

Then, when we are called to do something, we need to put our best effort into it, trusting God to use us, no matter how capable we feel.

"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest." (Ecclesiastes 9:10, KJV)
This isn’t a demand that everything be done perfectly, or that everything meet an ideal. It’s a challenge to go out and work until we can’t work anymore. It’s a command to put our best effort into what we do.

"But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness." (1 Timothy 6:11, KJV) 

          These verses command us to pursue values more important than our own perfectionism. We are to be seeking after improvement, a constant growth towards Christlike-ness. And we are to be submitted to his will, letting him lead us according to His plan.
So we aren’t responsible for achieving our ideals, after all. We’re responsible for growing and learning, and doing our best.

And our best, frankly, will never match up to the perfection that is our ultimate standard: Christ’s example.

You see, God knows we’re not perfect. He knows we can’t do it on our own. And he doesn’t ask us to.

God has offered to carry our burdens for us. He doesn’t ask us to go accomplish things for Him, He asks us to let Him accomplish things through us.

We aren’t supposed to be chasing after a flawed perception of the perfect life, the perfect relationships, or the perfect accomplishments.

We’re supposed to be chasing after Christ’s holiness.

So maybe we need to put our ideals aside and let go of our perfectionism. Maybe we should be trading off our stress for Christ’s peace. We need to chase after Him, trusting God to carry out His plan, even with an imperfect tool such as ourselves. 

Because that’s what He’s promised to do.

Take Mary, for example.

 Mary was a teenager when she was told by Gabriel that she would not only give birth to a child, but raise the Son of God.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m a few years older than mary most likely was. And I’m NO WHERE near having my life figured out. I am sure that Mary was a confused teenager too.

But God chose her.

Not because she was perfect. Not because she had her life brilliantly organized and planned out.

But because Mary was willing to trust her God, even when she didn’t know the whole plan. Even when it was scary. Even when it seemed impossible.

Imagine the anxiety and fear she must have experienced. Imagine the pressure: A young girl, responsible for raising the Messiah?

But Mary didn’t ask for the whole plan. She didn’t try to take things into her own hands. She said: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word."

God didn’t choose Mary because she was ready.

He chose her because she was willing.

So today, I just want to encourage you- and myself- to throw away our ideals of perfectionism.

To take a deep breath, savor the moment, and live life trusting God. When he asks you to do something, do it with your whole heart, and trust that his plan is bigger than any idea of “perfect” any of us could ever come up with.

So go out there, live by faith, trusting God to take care of the big picture. Because, even if we aren't perfect, God is; and he can use us despite our imperfections. 

 "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, [even] our faith." (1 John 5:4, KJV)