You know that ‘thing’ that threatens to break you?
It’s that thing you deny exists and try to run away from? Yeah, that.
It’s okay, you can turn around and face it. There’s hope when you walk towards it and through to the other side because I’ve lived it.
Perfect has been a ‘thing’ for me. I bristle when someone calls me perfect or perfectionist. Perfect hair, perfect smile, perfect performance, perfect response and yet, within the bristle, is a craving for it as well. It’s the craving that made me examine my heart and the hold that perfect had on me.
The deal, though? Perfect became a noose. It became a strangler in my journey towards authenticity in my relationships, with myself, and with my God. As I attempted to break up with perfect, perfect’s hold threatened to break me.
As I began to crumple under the pressure of perfection, God began a different kind of breaking in me. You see, if perfect had broken me I would have been left with shards of perfection that I would have tried to hold and pretty soon my hands would be full and perfect would fail, I would fall and break again into tiny pieces.
God’s breaking is a healing kind of breaking. And it’s a necessary break. Perfection was so woven into the fabric of who I was that the only way to put me back together again, in the way God saw me, was for him to completely and utterly break me. I needed to be so broken that perfection could be separated from the essence of who I am.
When brokenness happens because God is doing the breaking then he can be trusted to do the putting back together, and the putting back together is the part where his touch can bring healing and a whole lot more wholeness than I ever could bring in my own strength of breaking up with perfect.
God broke me and I was left in shards at his altar.
The initial breaking was painful. Like, I want to never lift my head again painful. It caused sleepless nights where I writhed in heart pain and questions. I would lie in bed listening to the creaking of the old house and the cycling of the furnace and the sound of the coyotes in our backyard and wonder. I would wonder if my heart was repairable. Everything I based my identity on-performance, acceptance, and approval-was suddenly stripped from me.
I was unable to perform to my level of standards in music.
I was failing in church leadership.
Friendships were broken.
I’ve been rejected at the core of who I am.
I have complexion issues, wild hair, and a tongue that’s difficult to control.
I’ve lived through some dark days of groping for God in my own strength.
These were some of my shards and he’s been piecing me back together. He’s filtering through the rejection and discarding the lies that I have long believed about myself.
He is teaching me to say ‘thanks’ for those monthly outbreaks, crazy hair, and to slow down and think before I speak.
He’s showing me that he’s the one who does the growing in my spiritual walk, not me and my efforts.
To be honest, I’ve run from the breaking. I’ve scurried like a rabbit before a prairie fire not realizing that I’m not the rabbit, but I’m the prairie grass that brings life and beauty, and sometimes the prairie needs a good burn.
Only when I’m broken of perfection can I be made perfect by a perfect God.
Perfect in the biblical sense means to be made complete. My relationship with perfection prevented my completeness in God. God’s desire is for me to be complete in him. I can know him completely and love him completely when I am released from the noose of perfection.
I’ve grown since the initial breaking. I’ve come to see God’s hand in the breaking and to trust him with the healing because as I submit to the breaking and the healing I see how he has discarded the threads of perfection and picked up the pieces of me that glorify him best and he is shaping me into the woman he wants me to be.
So, yes, perfect and I have broken up, and yes, we still get together. But the breaking up with perfect is really done best when I submit to a brokenness before my God and when I do, I find that I receive long-lasting healing instead of the bandaids I apply to my ‘perfect’ issues.
Perfect brokenness is what I strive for now. Complete brokenness before a God who sees me, heals me and loves me enough to break me in order to make me new.
He is perfect and there is none like him and in the security of love he provides I find the true meaning of perfection.
I’m doing a lot of confessing here and it’s time for another one:
I adore fall.
I love the beauty in the changing leaves, the crisp temperatures, and the October blue skies. I love watching the farmers gather the crops and the glow of the setting sun on the dried corn calls to me and awakens a yearning within. But there is another reason I love fall.
Summer brings with it anxiety and self-criticism. I tear myself down about the big and small flaws of a body that’s jiggly from bearing four children which only intense training would repair and said person lives fifteen miles away from any gym. That kind of self-criticism. I battle these thoughts all summer and by the end of the summer I’m weary of reminding myself to stand tall and confident and all I want to do is crawl into my cozy sweaters, jeans and ankle boots.
My perception is not necessarily my reality and I know that my value is not tied to my physical appearance or my productivity, but I still struggle with this truth and my heart tells me the struggle goes much further than just my outside appearance.
Often what we do on the outside indicates issues on the inside and this is true for me. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to wear more layers and long pants, but when I look at the deep in my heart I see what I’m really trying to do with all my covering up and accessorizing. I’m trying to cover up my imperfections, or at least my perceived imperfections, as if I can distract God with spiritual accessories. I might be able to fool you and myself, but I will never fool God.
Hebrews 4:13 lingers in my heart and reveals my futility in trying to hide. This verse states that nothing is hidden before God and that everything is exposed and laid bare. Everything. My impatience. My anger, selfishness, dissatisfaction, my doubts, and my fears. This verse releases me from the exhausting effort of hiding my weaknesses.
My weaknesses are not liabilities and something to be hid, but they are opportunities for me to come boldly to the throne of God to receive grace. Grace is not a pat on the head and the encouragement to keep trying to live right or even the freedom to live as I please, but it’s the empowerment that enables me to exchange impatience for patience. Anger for acceptance. Dissatisfaction for contentment.
I hide behind perfect because I’m ashamed of my failure at my inability to make these exchanges on my own. Hebrews 4:13-16 stops me in my tracks. It shows me how wrong I’ve been for trying to cover up my heart ugliness behind the facade of perfect, and I’m relieved by the exposure because the hiding gets exhausting, and rubs against my need for truth.
This is the truth: God sees all and knows all and will–he will give me grace when I need it. I don’t need to slink, sneak or sulk my way to his throne, but because of Jesus- the one who faced all the same temptations I do and yet did not sin–because of him, I can boldly, with confidence, come to the very throne of God and receive empowering grace.
Grace to face my imperfections and say: ‘thank-you’. Thank-you for my struggles. Thank-you for my fears. Thank-you. Without imperfections in my life, I wouldn’t need God and and I desperately need God.
He’s authentic in every way with me and desires authenticity from me as well. He sees me. He sees the things I would rather pretend do not exist and do not love about me. But he sees into the hidden recesses of my heart and loves me despite the ugly that’s found there.
I can strip myself down to all the ugly and he will receive me and empower me to choose his way of living. Impatience for patience. Anger for peace. Dissatisfaction for contentment. Doubt for belief.
I’ve been invited to boldly come to him and so have you. We don’t need to get prettied up, even though it’s fun to get our pretty on. Ours is the kind of relationship where we can come confidently in our beauty and in our ugly because grace trumps perfect. We don’t need to stay in the shadows, but can walk boldly up the red carpet to his throne, fall at his feet and receive empowering grace. We can exchange our version of perfect for his perfect love poured into us through his grace.
I’m afraid of disappointing myself, and I fear failing my expectations. What if I have to buy new clothes because I can’t stick with an exercise program? What if I wrinkle my face into a permanent scowl because I’m perpetually disappointed in myself? What if I try, again, to organize my life into some resemblance of order and once again, fail? Why can’t I have endless energy? Why am I so jiggly? Why am I crabby in the morning and why do they expect me to be cheery? What if I give something my everything and it’s not good enough? What if I’m not good enough?
And there lies the root of my alliance with perfect. If I’m perfect then I’m good enough and the maddening what ifs stop taking over my mind. This is not a healthy place.
I am enough. You are enough. But why do we struggle to receive this truth? Why do we wrestle with God over this?
It could be that I’ve confused my ‘fear of not being enough’ with being aware of my sinful nature and the journey toward holiness. I’m wide awake to my failures and struggles: selfish ambition, fear, impatience, and judgement. But those aren’t the things that make me ‘not enough’ and overcoming them isn’t what makes me ‘enough’ either.
So what makes us enough? It’s found in the depth of God’s love for us which is a deep, deep well we can draw from and find the sweetest of waters. He loved us while we were trapped in sin and we love him because he first loved us.
If this is truth then where does the alliance with perfect begin? Does it begin when we don’t believe ourselves worthy? Is the idea of a love freely given so far outside our comfort zone that we make ourselves work for it?
Our experiences with perfect are not going to be the same. We live in a society that tells us we can have it all. We reach higher and higher instead of resting in God’s expectations of us. His yoke is easy and his burden is light, but we burden ourselves when we add intentions outside of what he’s called us to do.
It seems easier to beat myself up for failing to follow through on that popular exercise program or that my calendar is still hopelessly disorganized or that I didn’t reach out to a hurting friend because I was self-absorbed with my problems. I failed again.
Perfect leaves no room for failure so I put even more pressure on myself to be everything to everyone, including myself. This is exhausting and impossible. It becomes a merry go round that takes me lower and deeper into the pit of perfect and further and further away from the truth of God’s expectations.
Discovering God’s intentions has been the most freeing antidote to breaking up with perfect. My problem is that I think I need to add amendments to them creating an atmosphere of scales and balances. I think to myself, ‘Oh, God says to be perfect? Well, I’d better not make any mistakes and not ever let anyone down,’ while disregarding the fact that God intends for me to be complete in him, which is not some twisted version of perfect that my mind thinks up.
God’s expectations for my life involve making him Lord of my life and doing what he wants me to do. The problem comes when I forget to listen and that’s usually when perfect and I get back together.
Making him Lord means freedom from perfection because we don’t have to worry about fulfilling the unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves. It means we get to find out what he expects of us and release our fears of not being enough because he says, ‘Beloved you are enough. Rest in me, listen for my voice, and you will be complete.’