A few weeks ago, my mom said something that really irritated me. Since I have this bad habit of rolling nasty comments around in my head (for longer than I would like to admit), I eventually realized she was right. The fact that she was right irritated me even more.
“Well, I know you like to do everything the right way…”
I really couldn’t tell you what she said after that statement. Honestly, the tone with which she said “the right way” hit my pride in ways I’ve never experienced. The right way? Whatever mom. How do you even know why I do what I do? But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I have this bad habit of trying to be perfect. To do everything the right way.
From as far back as I can remember, if there was a way to do something right I would aim for that goal until I could dominate it (and then I would even go above and beyond that). “This is how you write the letter ‘B’, boys and girls.” Done. “If you apply yourself and get good grades, you will be recognized in front of the entire school for all your efforts.” Bingo. “This is your assignment for the week and if you want extra credit all you have to do is this.” Consider it done. “If you show-up for tryouts, you just might make it on the team.” Bulls-eye. With each passing year, I fell more and more in love with the idea of being perfect.
But God was not fooled.
The outside looked picture perfect. However, on the inside, a raging war was taking place between the sin in my heart and the Holiness of my Creator. When I turned fourteen, I started attending Youth Group with a few of my friends. Because, in all honesty, the next perfect thing to do was to become a Christian. When I showed up the first night, everyone was all giddy about a Youth Conference. I don’t know if it was the raging hormones or the fact that a bunch of teenagers were getting the okay from their parents to travel across the state, but “Acquire The Fire” was all they could talk about for weeks. Eventually, to be perfect, I came to the realization that I would have to go to this Conference…if I liked it or not.
God ruined everything.
The resounding message from each speaker oozed the message that no one was perfect. WHAT? “For everyone has sinned…we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans 3:23) IDIOTS!!! My heart was shouting “escort these false teachers off the stage…they are preaching the wrong message.” Eventually, I relaxed my raging heart and continued to let the words sink deep into my soul. Like scales falling from my eyes, the Lord helped me to see that this sin of perfection was inhibiting my relationship with the God of the Universe. That night, I accepted Christ and knew my life would be different.
Satan and my flesh ruined everything.
In Ephesians 4:22-24 it says, “Strip yourselves of your former nature [put off and discard your old unrenewed self] which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion; and be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude], And put on the new nature (the regenerate self) created in God’s image, [Godlike] in true righteousness and holiness.” Unfortunately, I failed to strip off the sin of perfection and replace it with something new. Like an empty hole waiting to be filled, perfection found its home it the recesses of my heart once again.
My mom was not fooled.
However, her statement “I know you like to do everything the right way…” irritated me to no end. The day she said that, I was experiencing some sadness from the fact that I was failing at a number of things. How perfect can I be if I attempt to do something and then fail? Long gone are the days in which I could achieve perfection with ease. But, now that I’m an adult, perfection has taken on a cleaver disguise.
Doing things the “right way”.
Graduate from college. Get married. Buy a house. Have a career. Serve in the leadership at a church. Get pregnant. Birth naturally. Breastfeed. Use cloth diapers. Organize your home. Be on committees. Homeschool. All these things can honestly be done with the right attitude and a humble heart. However, my mom knows me well enough to cut through the crap and call me on the carpet. The last decade has been spent trying to please the Lord and serve Him with a pure heart, but the temptation toward perfection has seductively slithered in.
“Work hard and you will get a college degree.” Check. “Will you marry me?” Heck yes!!! “Purchase dream home.” Sign on the dotted lines. “Now that you have a degree, it will be a piece of cake to find a job in your career field.” Done. “Don’t forget to add in a boss that is both emotionally and sexually abusive.” Whoa…wait a minute. “And how about a healthy dose of health problems that started when you were young, but didn’t manifest itself until you were in your early twenties.” Hey now. “Let’s throw in a lot of deaths, difficulty getting pregnant and then four days of labor that ends in more hospital intervention than the planned home birth…struggles with breastfeeding and just a pinch of disposable diaper guilt.” How’s that for trying to be perfect? “Why don’t we top it all off with church issues and call it a day.”
As an adult, the Lord has taken all my efforts toward perfection and let me fail. Miserably. Because He loves me. In His infinite wisdom, He knew that it would take years of disappointment to get me to eventually stop trying to be perfect. This has been a long decade. I wish I could have recognized this earlier. I’m not sure what the next steps should be at this point. I do know that “He who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
Maybe I should go back to the beginning…when I surrendered my life to Christ. And remind myself of the power of The Gospel. This seems like the “right way”. A way that actually pleases God.
Romans 3:21-31 “But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law [or by being perfect]. After all, is God the God of the Jews only? Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles? Of course he is. There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.”