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Humility is another word for honesty. It is not pretending to be other than we are (hypocrisy), but acknowledging the truth about what we are.– John Stott
Here I am again, Lord. Three years later, second child, same struggle; perfectionism. Three years ago, I had my first child and I was catapulted into the unfamiliar world of parenting. It felt like 24/7 self- sacrifice and it was rough. The need for perfect children, the perfect home, and the perfect wife– it all came rushing back in new and scary ways, causing me to cry out to God– help!
In B.C (Before Children) time, controlling my life was easy and I thought it was one of my assets. I was the “put-together woman,” always dressed for the right occasion, and the home: immaculate. However, with my daughter’s arrival and her constant demands, the façade of perfect home management quickly dissolved. I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the person staring back at me– I was losing control and worse, I felt like a failure.
Why shouldn’t I be able to do it all? Why can’t I have well-behaved, well-groomed children, a clean house, thriving relationships, and be in shape? Doesn’t God want me to be the best version of myself and create a home environment for my husband and children that’s both orderly and wonderful? Yes and no. Not if it becomes a pride trip to show off how incredibly amazing I am as a woman and mother. Not if my need for perfectionism prevents my daughter from being a child instead of a mini-me.
This couldn’t stem from my need for approval, could it? Me thinks the voice in my head has nailed it. What other people think is important, but when it becomes too important, it robs me of the freedom to be myself, to be authentic.
Mmm, is that why my life goes haywire sometimes? To teach me to depend on the Lord and not on myself? Is the conflict I am fighting within? The question of who is really in control of my life?
Jesus wants to liberate us from the illusion of perfectionism so that we might live authentically in a world that desperately wants to know if faith in God can be built on the real struggles in life.
In a crazy twist of logic, my need for approval actually isolates me from the very people I want to impress with the person of Christ. My perfectionism sends a message to others, including God that “I don’t need you, I am self-sufficient.” The Lord tested Israel in the desert to humble them (Deut. 8:2-3). My imperfection, then, is actually a gift that makes me more attractive to a searching world, more dependent on my Lord (and a nicer person to be around).
So, the question is, does God love you or the illusion you project? God’s Word reminds us that He loves us with an everlasting love that will never let us go. He sees the real me in all my imperfection and brokenness and still loves me:
- He has not rejected my prayers nor His loyal love from me (Ps. 66:20)
- He has compassion on me because He knows that I am weak (Ps. 103:10-14)
- His love for us is so great that He made us alive in Christ by His grace (Eph. 2:4)
- He loved us and gave His life for us” (1 Jn. 4:10)
In fact, those who are my closest friends are those that know the most about me and yet love me anyway (including my children and my husband).
Is this an excuse to tolerate household chaos and to throw away my make-up? No, it is an appeal to reject bondage to perfectionism and the unhealthy approval of others and to live in freedom knowing that the One whose opinion matters the most, who loves me the most.
In my own pride, I thought I could handle it all because I was smart enough and capable enough. However, the Lord has chosen to use children in my life to show me just how wrong I was. And today I’m letting it go. Today, I’m choosing freedom from perfection. I’m saying “no” to the voice in my head that tells me I’m a failure. I’m choosing to remember that my imperfection is what helps point my children to Christ and draw me closer to Him. The first time around, I tried in my own strength to conquer, instead of running to Jesus. With my second child, when those same feelings arose, I knew I couldn’t do it. The Lord was where I needed to turn immediately.
Three years later, second child, same struggle, different answer: Jesus.