note to self: it's okay to not be perfect

I visit a place called Mommy Guilt wayyy too often.  

And "perfectionism" is the vehicle that takes me there.  She drives fast with a mean engine, perfectionism does--and her favorite destinations are Shame, Guilt, and Depression.  I don't think it's any small coincidence--this metaphor of perfectionism having four wheels--  I've been driving since I was in kindergarten. 

On an old dirt road, on my father's knee, I first grasped the wheel of a chevy pickup.  "Keep her in the tracks", was my only instruction, and I did just that.  And I would do it perfectly.  I was the overachiever, the brown noser, the goody two shoes.  If I could just be good enough, then people would like me and maybe that would make up for all the things I didn't like about me and even about my family.  Don't get me wrong here, I see now how blessed I am with the family I came from, but don't we all go through a "whose-family-is-this-and-was-I-really-adopted" phase?

Perfectionism became a way of redeeming myself.  

And therein lies the problem.  I can't redeem myself.  I will never have the ability to redeem myself.  All my righteous acts are as filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6)

Perfectionism is rejecting Christ's redemption and attempting my own. 

This is eye-opening for me.  It's almost as if I'm telling God, "No, what you did for me just wasn't enough.  I still have to work to deserve it."

>>I don't have to be perfect for God to love me.  For people to love me, maybe.  But not for God.  Not for Him, the one who knows I am but dust, and made me from mud so I would soften at His touch.  He chose messy.  Because messy can be molded into glory.<<

I've sat as my own judge and jury for too long.  And I've allowed myself to worry over  judgements I've perceived others have made against me as well.   The truth of it is that I'm God's servant and He alone will judge me.   So who am I to condemn myself?  There's NO CONDEMNATION for us who are in Christ Jesus.  None.  Mercy triumphs over judgement!  It's not about being good enough anymore.  It's about humbly accepting the word of God planted in us that SAVES us, rescues us, does for us what we can never do for ourselves.

I used to consider my inner drive to be perfect as a good trait, one that would push me to become what God wanted me to be.  I was confusing the work of the Spirit with the work of the flesh.  When the Spirit changes us, places his finger on our muddy clay hearts, molding us into the image of Christ, and we submit to that work, bending at His touch-- it's nothing of ourselves, it's all Jesus.  And that's the kind of change that lasts.  

Nothing I try in my own power, for my own selfish motivations, will stand the test of eternity.  It's been eye-opening for me, all that God's been revealing to me about how negative and hard I've been on myself.  I foolishly thought my struggle with inward perfection wouldn't affect those around me.  But I sat in the backseat of a van with my seven year old son on a long and stressful trip and heard him say these words to me,  "you want me to be perfect and I just CAN'T be perfect!".  Hot tears were rolling off his cheeks, scorching my heart. 

It took me by surprise.  I never knew that I was projecting that onto my children.  His behavior had disappointed me on this trip, and I had allowed other people's judgements to fester like an open wound.  The truth is, his actions had made ME look like less than stellar of a mom.  It was pride and perfectionism that were guiding me, not the heart of the Father.  For perfectionism is just another form of pride.  And pride will always keep us from receiving the love and freedom of Christ.  It makes us miserable and judgmental.

My dad said it perfectly, "think of it this way, your kids are keeping you humble".

I sighed when he told me that.  It's not as if humility is a coveted parenting trait.  But if that's what God wants to accomplish within me, I'll submit to it.   This ministry of motherhood is just one more way God is refining me.  These wonderful children he's blessed me with are his instruments.  And my home is God's classroom.  If I am to boast about anything, it is to be the very weaknesses that propelled me straight into the saving gospel of Jesus.  My imperfections are what teach me the most about His perfect nature.  

And so I want to live in grace.  I want to give it extravagantly, just as I receive it.  I want to parent my children as God parents me--with truth and love, forgiveness and mercy.  I want my motives in discipline not to be clouded by perfectionism, but to be brimming with humility and purity of heart.  I have to give my kids room to fail, and then lead them straight into the redemptive love of Jesus. 

I have to give myself room to fail and then press ever harder into the only grace that saves me.  Sloppy clay that I am in the hands of the Master Potter.  He's making something beautiful, because it's what He does best, after all.

And that's the Gospel truth.


Southern Gal said...

Wow. Just wow.

Mary said...

well this is just what i needed to hear.
i think we are cut from the same cloth, my dear.
what a blessing was and is for me to read.
thank you sweet friend.

Jennifer S. said...

My friend Mary shared this blog post on FB and I am so glad she did. Thank you so much for your wise words. I too am a victim of the mommy guilt and I am so tired of it! Grace is absolutely the answer! Thank you.

Kelly said...

yes. i too, too many times have fallen victim of trying to be perfect & to portray a perfect everything. it landed me a big fat slice of humble pie among other things.

i am so thankful that our God is so loving as he molds us.


Kate Ferguson said...

Amen! Not sure I could have said that any better!

Sarah said...

This is so true, Joye. Thank you for sharing. I have a terribly hard time not putting expectations on myself and then failing miserably with no allowance for messing up.
Thank you so much for sharing.

Kristin said...

Absolutely beautiful. I wish I could get this truth to seep into my soul. This is something i definitely struggle with. Thank you for this post, Joye.

Melinda said...

Hi Joyce. We met at a carenet banquet but I'm not sure you remember me? Anyway I loved this post. I have often felt the same. I wrote about it in my blog a while back if you have time to check it out. Thanks for blessing me with this today! https://destinationgrace.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/the-beauty-of-imperfection/

Bettsi McComb said...

It is the gospel truth and you tell it beautifully. Thank you.


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