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.’
Last week I gave you a list of things I’m afraid you might not like about me. I listed my hair, snorting when I laugh, sassiness and sarcasm, but the nitty gritty truth of it is this: I have spent far too much time wondering if you like me or if I’ve offended you.
Sometimes I forget to speak before I think and most of the time it works out okay but other times it doesn’t. I’ll catch a twitch in your eye at something I spoke and will wonder if I offended you. Then I roll the conversation over and over in my head and before long I’ve broken out in a sweat and spent the majority of my time thinking about the incident, taking my anxiety out on my loved ones. Picture a snapping turtle and an unsuspecting hand. That’s me and my lovelies when I am wrapped up in fear.
So with effort I redirect my thoughts and for a time sail through the day, but the conversation start to auto-play in my mind, and I would be twisted up inside wondering, wondering, always wondering how I could have said it differently and if you still like me.
Sad, isn’t it? It’s true though. I’ve spent the majority of my adult life knowing that I put way too much stock into being perfect for you while knowing that God has the one opinion that matters.
There’s a lot of information on how to navigate relationships from psychologists, personality specialists, and other writers who have journeyed through the choppy waters of relationships. I’ve benefited from this wisdom, and I’ve also consulted close friends whom I trust enough to keep the nitty gritty details of my failures and insecurities close to their hearts while giving me sound advice.
However, man’s wisdom is incomplete.
God’s wisdom is best and so I turn to his word to find the truth about my battle with perfection in relationships. I found a glimpse of this truth in Proverbs 29:25 which says that the fear of man is a snare. This, my friends, is true.
Fear of man and perfectionism in friendships became one and the same to me because the push to be perfect was rooted in the fear of rejection. It was like a noose slowly suffocating the life out of me and when I mixed perfectionism with friendships I discovered that my truest self was hardly recognizable behind the facade of perfection.
The plastic version of myself was suffocating the authentic version of myself and the self-recrimination of living up to someone else’s standard was drowning out the voice of the Lord. I was beginning to break under the weight of living up to perfect so perfection and I had to break up.
But it’s hard, you know? I catch myself falling into the habits of replaying conversations and causing myself to come up short every. single. time. I begin fearing my interactions with friends, family and strangers and forgetting that there is no fear in love.
1 John tells me that there is no fear in love and perfect love drives out all fear. So the key to breaking up with perfection lies in fully understand God’s love for me. When I’m secure in his love, I’m secure in my relationships and no longer seek to be perfect for others. Blessed freedom!
The hard part is when I feel alone in this battle. I can’t visibly see God cheering me on from the sidelines even though I know he’s there. I can’t see you struggling with the same things because maybe you’ve become a plastic version of yourself too. What I do see is you and I visiting and me trying hard not to look for that twitch in your eye that might indicate I stepped on your toes or not lived up to your expectations when in reality that twitch could just be a twitch.
Breaking up with perfection is becoming a habit and the merry-go-round ride is getting shorter and the length between the rides is getting longer. Eventually, when that perfection merry-go-round stops to invite passengers on, I might not join the ride because I will finally be so secure in God’s love for me that I will care more about how I love the other person rather than if I’m being perfect for the other person.
I’ve kicked perfection to the curb. And you? In what ways have you let perfectionism drive your relationships? Can we learn from each other to push forward through the hard part of breaking up with perfection so we can live free in the perfect love of God?
Let’s love one another well. Free from perfection. Free from fear. Free to love.
Which does the Lord want? Does he want my commitment or does he want my surrender? What exactly do these two words mean? I tell myself that I need to be more committed to spending time with the Lord. I need to be committed to loving people and serving others. But it is hard. I have weeks where I fail more than I succeed. And then I have weeks where I don’t do so bad. But it’s in the empty weeks where I stumble and fall and see just how clearly wretched I can be and how I just don’t want to do ‘this’ anymore because it is so so hard. So I looked up these couple of words and I found something I hadn’t known before.
to yield something to the possession of power to another
to give oneself up in to the power of another
to give up, abandon, or relinquish
to yield in favor of another
to bind or obligate
to give in trust or charge
to entrust for safekeeping
to do, perform
to engage oneself
The differences are subtle and it would be easy to exchange one for the other and mean the same thing, but I see something different between the two that is vital. It appears that with commitment I still retain authority over whether or not I commit. Commitment involves me doing something–pledging, obligating, or giving someone charge of something. Surrender involves yielding. Yielding is getting out of the way and giving authority of oneself up to the Lord.
I have been committed without surrender. Commitment without surrender has led to my lack of consistency in my walk with Christ. When I commit without surrender I am telling myself that I get to choose when and where I am committed to Christ. Maybe it’s just on Sunday mornings or when I am out and about, but the commitment can wane when I am with my family and I allow myself to act and say things that I would never dream of acting or saying to anyone else.
But surrender is where consistent Christ-living occurs. Surrender must be active and present for commitment to become woven into our daily moments no matter what we face. Maybe I need to be less of a committed Christian and more of a surrendered Christian. Maybe our churches need to preach more about surrendering instead of committing. Maybe we have it backwards.
Surrender first. Yield oneself to the power and grace of the Lord. Surrender all we are and hope to become. Surrender our pain and our joys. Surrender our wills to the one who knows us better than we know ourselves. Surrender to the One who holds us in his palm and whispers love to us in the darkest of days and deepest of nights.
Commitment second. Once surrender occurs, commitment is a natural progression. Surrendering leads to a people working through the power of the Holy Spirit and commitment alone leads to a people working through themselves which leads to inconsistency and legalism. Surrender is a yielding to the Lord’s authority and then giving him our pledge to live as he would have us to live. Without surrender commitment is empty and becomes a choice.
I know that each day I need to get up and surrender again. And sometimes I need to surrender every moment to the One who is my hope. I wish I could say this is an easy thing, but my heart deceives and who can know it? It is a fight to remain in that surrendered place and so I often I slip out of it without even realizing it.
I can only describe my experience with slipping out of that surrendered place and it usually starts with a dissatisfaction with the way things are. I begin looking around at all the pain and hurts in those around me and myself. I begin to focus on the unanswered prayers or the news that smacks me around and down. I begin being too aware of my present and not aware enough of his presence. These are clues that I have slipped out of surrender. Another clue is when commitment wanes and becomes too hard.
It’s both surrender and commitment. Working together. Complementing each other. Bringing purpose to our days. I need to choose both. Surrender and commitment, but commitment becomes a whole lot easier if I surrender first. Surrender is a loss of freedom that gives me freedom to commit and live for the Lord. It’s both and.