Give yourself grace to be perfected
READ TIME: 7 MINUTES
My name is Priska and I'm a perfectionist.
Good enough has never been good enough.
I will cry, bleed, and sweat to make sure everything in my life is just as I imagined.
I would say that I'm even like this in trivial matters, but nothing is trivial to me.
However, I’m in recovery.
My biggest tripping hazard has been waiting for my perfect life before I seized the opportunity each day had to offer. I have a new idea of perfect, though. What's "perfect" is the nitty-gritty, sometimes mediocre, often untidy, everyday situations we find ourselves in. God designed us perfectly - to be perfected by Him. We often feel like we're missing something, and we are: our Creator is the missing piece in it all.
If we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.
1 John 4
Perfection isn't a destination that we trick ourselves into believing exists. Walking in God's perfect plan is a daily choice: we must surrender to the day as it is, who we are at this very moment, and the victories and (yes!) valleys, as they come.
I love how 1 John uses the word "perfected". What if instead of picking apart our imperfections, we thought of ourselves as constantly "being perfected"? Tack on that extra -ed to the word, and give yourself the grace to be perfected.
Here are the most common areas where we stall in life waiting for perfection, and how instead we can be perfected in each of those areas (no science here, just experience):
1. The place you live.
I was never home (until I moved to St. Pete). I never put down roots, because I didn't want to pull them up again. I previously lived in the same place for three years... just stalling. That hurt my journey. I could have grown faster, matured better, and endured my trials with less heartache if I had fully invested myself into that life for however long God had me there.
Constantly, I complained about how I did not want to live in my hometown, how it wasn't enough, how I wouldn't settle. What do you think that did to the people around me? It pushed them away. They probably thought I was a snob, and maybe I was. I should've just swallowed the attitude and lived happily where God had me. It was good to look toward His promises for a place that felt like home, but knowing that day had not yet arrived, I could still find joy in the moment.
In St. Pete, I put down the deepest roots I could conjure up. I proudly claimed MY home that I diligently spent years praying for. Soon after I had finished screaming & praising God for my victory to kick back into a repose, I was haunted by a terrifying thought: "What if God moves me to another city?" My comfort fled faster than a prairie fire with a tail wind. But I recalled this Scripture:
"These [legends of the faith] all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland...a heavenly one" Hebrews 11
I knew God's will for me was to live in St. Pete someday, but I wasted three years looking forward to it and not producing any good fruit. I wasted one thousand and ninety-five days. That's dumb! Work today where you are, trusting not only that God has planted you there for today, but also that He's got a future for you better than you can think or imagine.
2. That special someone.
Why do we all like to fantasize about marrying guys we'll never meet? Don't even pretend you've never done it. I won't deny it either. Two years ago I would have said, "Tim Tebow would make the perfect husband for me." Luckily, God knew better. Fantasizing about marrying a perfect man was my defense…it kept me from imagining a real marriage to a real person.
When I finally decided that marriage was an option for my future, I asked a happily married friend (and importantly still in love with his wife of 30 years) for some advice on how to prepare my heart. He recommended "The Meaning of Marriage" by Timothy Keller, and boy oh boy! This book became my hands-down favorite book on marriage. Here's what I gleaned: Marriage is two imperfect people choosing to love and serve one another. It's hard work - it even sounds like it.
That's why we like shows like the Bachelor/Bachelorette. And I do say WE - I'm a big fan! If you assume that one of the two partners is perfect (as only TV & daydreams can portray someone), then it seems like the marriage will be a lot less work, because the suitor won't have to exert any extra energy to love him/her. Reality hits when we discover that behind every beautiful face is an imperfect soul.
How about this stat? Less 20-35 year old Americans (#millennials) are getting married than ever before. One of the main contributors to that stat is that nearly half (estimated in 2014 at 42%) saw their parents' awful marriages end in divorce. We stay legally single, but casually dating around waiting for the perfect person. I'm not blaming you for guarding yourself - trust me, I did the same. But you're guarding against the fullness of love experienced in marriage, like growing more and more in love with someone for decades to come.
Open yourself up to the potential that the God who created you can provide the right spouse for you. Regardless of your romantic status, it's time to prepare for marriage. Even before you have the ring, before you've had your first date, and even before you meet him/her, you can prepare to be a good spouse. Here's what I did to prepare for marriage, and you can too:
Inquire. Interview older couples who are still in love. I asked them questions. "What made them work so well together?" "What did you do wrong that I can learn from?" "What keeps you loving each other when times are hard?"
Read. I recommend Genesis 2, Ephesians 5, and Proverbs 31. In addition to "The Meaning of Marriage", you should read "You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity" by Francis & Lisa Chan. Study what godly love is and what God designed marriage to be.
Pray. Ask God to reveal tendencies you have that are not helpful for a spouse to have - like the tendency to be so independent you can't heed anyone else's advice (that was mine). Let me tell you though, my husband is wise! I discovered that we have a better partnership when we listen to each other's perspectives, because “two are better than one”.
Change. Because, hey...you can consume all the knowledge in the world, but at the end of the day, you either make the change or you don't. Nobody knows how to be a good spouse from the get-go. I decided to start listening to other people's advice. At first, it sucked. Then, it got worse. It felt like part of me was dying by not doing things my way. Now, it feels like I'm a good wife, a good friend, a good sister, and more. And that's way better than doing it my way any day.
3. The work you do.
I'm not the most qualified person to preach on this. In fact, I'll go ahead and call myself a hypocrite so you won't have to. I don’t love the work I do. Every Monday is an all-out battle. Recently, though, I've gotten better, and my all-day Monday breakdown has shortened into a 1-hour internal feud. That's a small victory to celebrate for me. Just for some backstory on me: I'm an over-achiever, and I thrive off of being the best I can be. But for the past couple of years, I slowly sunk into this pattern of feeling bullied, undervalued, and untalented at work, so I started acting that way. I felt trapped. Trapped by work that didn't feel helpful and a role that wasn't growing me. I came to an important realization, though: I'm entirely in control of my attitude, and my attitude determines how far I can go. Not just in a "cute Pinterest quote overlaid on a scene of mountains" kind of way. In a very real way, I cannot be promoted beyond what my attitude welcomes…by God and by man. I decided to take control of my work instead of letting it dictate to me who I am.
It's not easy. On Monday mornings like today, in the middle of the fight, I don't feel the whole "God grants me the victory in Christ Jesus." Instead, satan's lies stream through my head about how I’m not smart enough, how my coworkers are competing against me, and how I'm not worthy of a better job. But I shut that junk off.
Quit letting yourself sulk about work, and embrace the goodness in the work you do today. Make a big deal out of the little things that bring you joy. Celebrate big projects being completed and absorb every kudos you get from your peers.
Embrace an attitude of gratitude by praising God for the good parts of your work. My favorite part of my work is that my work-life balance is awesome. I have little stress at my job. My boss enjoys my work. I sit in an air-conditioned office all day while other people are doing manual labor outside in the heat of Florida. Hey, maybe they like it, but I don't think my hair would enjoy that type of work. I get to see my husband anytime I want - he works 20 feet from me. I make good money. And we have a Starbucks downstairs.
The chairman of my company has a ton of amazing art located on every wall of four towers - more art than you can even imagine! It's extraordinary to be surrounded by it. When I get tired of looking at numbers on an Excel spreadsheet or finance emails, I ponder the art and the artists who created them. I wonder if maybe at one point in their lives, they felt trapped in an unfulfilling job. Today, I remember them for their great works of art, not by their momentary trials. Besides, I wonder how much their momentary trials helped to drive their creative ideas.
Tomorrow is never guaranteed to be perfect. Some days, it may feel like it - others highlight the imperfections in unavoidable ways. In every moment, though, God has orchestrated my life to be for my good and His glory.
I challenge you to seize today — THIS VERY DAY — knowing that through it all, God is perfecting you in His love.