"Do you know what would be best for you? Stop trying to be spiritually perfect to God and man."
Lately, I've had to come to terms with the Perfectionist inside me -- or, rather, I've had to come to terms with the reality that I am not perfect.
I don't know when the perfectionist ideal snuck into my heart, but it's probably been ruling a good portion of my life for the last 20 years or so. There's always a catch-22 with perfectionism, though. As I strive to be perfect in one area, another area inevitably suffers. (There's also the fact that no one is perfect, but you know, somehow my brain blocks that fact out on a consistent basis.)
Take, for instance, college. I firmly believed that we should do all things to the best of the ability that God has given us. This isn't a terrible sentiment, so I set out to do it. I put a high priority on my studies -- aiming to get the highest grade possible, because I knew God had given me that ability. I excelled, and to this day have a stellar work ethic. But what suffered in the process? Oh, you know. My health. A little joy here and there. Oh, yeah-- and relationships. With people, with myself, with God.
But I never really saw it as a problem.
Until I realized I couldn't do it any more.
Pregnancy has been hard on so many levels (but it's the good-kind-of-hard, you know what I mean?). Not only have I been physically pushed to the brink of exhaustion, but I have been pushed to the brink of mental and emotional hullaballoo. I literally cannot keep up with my pre-pregnancy schedule, but I feel like I do not have the wiggle room to slow down.
Two days ago, I had a breakdown. Ok, three breakdowns. These are no longer foreign to me or my husband (or maybe any other pregnant lady out there), but somehow I am always caught off guard. As I slouched in a bench, slowly getting drenched in the rain, hoodie draped over my face, hiding in the shadows (yeah - it was pitiful), I cried out to God. My cries were something like, "Please take something off of my plate," and, "Why doesn't someone give me permission to stop something?"
My husband's advise was wise and practical: I can't expect someone else to remove things from my schedule. I will have to sacrifice doing my most perfect homework for grad. school. I will have to sacrifice being perfect for my students. I have to be okay with not being perfect.
All that uttered out of me was, "I don't know how."
I don't know how not to have these enormous expectations of myself. But that's just what they are: enormous expectations of myself. No one else is forcing them on me; in fact, everyone else in my entire life is telling me to slow down and take it easy.
And then, he asked the whammy of all questions: "What would you say to our daughter if she were in your situation?"
Shoot. There was no wiggling out of that question.
"Learn to see yourself as you are, and accept your weakness until it pleases God to heal you. Your goal is to be as patient with yourself as you are with your neighbor."
I'd tell her to just take a break, to stop trying to be perfect, to take care of herself.
"Long-standing habits are easily restarted, because you already have a natural leaning toward them. Stay away from anything that will lead you down old paths."
So that's what I did. I buried my own perfection idol, at least for the day, and just stepped back.
You know, there's a difference between doing everything to the best of our abilities and doing everything for the glory of God. Yes, it's good to put forth our best effort insomuch as it points to the Lord. If it instead points to our glory (or if our motivation is for perfectionism), then our activities have become our idols. We are no longer letting God be LORD of our lives. We must remember that the Bible says again and again that God uses our weaknesses to bring Him glory.
"If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness."
2 Corinthians 11:30
Oh, and by the way, God did end up taking a few things off my plate (classes, meetings, etc.) byno act of my own.
... and the quotes are from Fenelon's The Seeking Heart.