Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Far from Perfect

My job is extremely detailed and it is required that I work to a very high standard when it comes to entering information into our databases. Even more so, when I send out notices to students. The information I send them should be correct. For this reason I do my best to double check everything I send and work slowly so that I do not mess up.

However, this morning I was reminded just how far from perfect I really am. I had received an email from my boss last night and I knew that I had messed up. I tried not to think about it while I was at Bible study. When I got to work this morning and began to look into the issue further and discovered that I had sent out the incorrect information to about 15 students. Almost instantly I was irritated with my mistake. Shortly after that, I found out I had done something else wrong!

I wanted to close my office door and cry. I HATE making mistakes, especially when other people are involved. It’s embarrassing and extremely humbling. I started in with all the negative thoughts, put downs, and flat out lies. I stopped what I was doing, bowed my head and talked to God. I told Him that I did not want to have this kind of attitude today. I hate messing up, but this attitude could have caused me to mess up even more.

Thankfully, God listened to me and reminded me of this devotional I read yesterday from Proverbs 31 Ministries. I can honestly say that God has changed my attitude. I sent corrected notices to each student and feel better that I was honest about my mistake instead of trying to cover it up.

If you have time, please read this devotional below. I hope it encourages you, like it did me.

God wants us to come to Him just as we are.

. . . . . . . . . .
Being Perfect
27 Sep 2010
Rachel Olsen

"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence." 1 Peter 1:3 (ESV)

There's a moment I dread when going to the doctor for a check-up. It's not putting on that tissue paper rectangle they mistakenly call a "gown." It's not having my finger pricked for blood tests - though I'm really squeamish about that. It's the moment right after the nurse finishes her questions, grabs her clip board, and announces the doctor will be in to see me shortly. Pulling the door closed behind her, she leaves me alone with it.

I already know what it's going to say about me; I've read it before. It's going to say that I don't measure up. That I'm not reaching my potential. That I don't equal my ideal. It's the height/weight chart that declares the perfect weight for my height – and I'm several pounds away.

It extends no mercy. It offers no grace. It makes no allowances for how old I am, how many babies I've birthed, or the fact that my husband can eat three plates of food every night without gaining an ounce. It demands perfection.

A few years ago I heard a verse that seemed to be the scriptural equivalent of the height/weight chart. A single verse to measure my worth against, and feed my expectations for perfection: "But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48, NIV)

I figured this verse justified dressing my family in matching sweaters, in the middle of July, to take the Christmas card photo because I'd just gotten the perfect haircut. I figured it warranted pricey tooth whitening treatments because I drink coffee and tea, and it shows. And I figured it would be my defense when I drove my family nuts about deep-cleaning the entire house because my new friend said she might stop by.

While the verse came in handy when I needed to justify my quest for perfect teeth, perfect photos or a perfectly clean house, it added to my disappointment, guilt and occasional loathing when my life, body or family didn't match the ideal notions in my head. Rather than fostering perfection, it fueled my self-criticism. Surely this is not what Jesus intended!

In the years since hearing that verse, I've embraced a core conviction that goes like this: If God created life, He alone gets to define it . This conviction drove me to find out what exactly Jesus meant by "be perfect."

Matthew wrote this verse. And the word he used in the ancient Greek language means something a little different than Mr. Webster's English definition. The Greek word here is teleos and it means "complete, full grown, developing."

The first two pieces of that definition indicate something already accomplished, while the third indicates an ongoing process. So this perfection Jesus prescribes for us is already complete and yet still developing. Complete in Him; still at work in us. We're allowed to be a work-in-progress!

All parts of this definition, however, refer to maturity of character, rather than a flawless figure, immaculate home, or the faultless execution of a task. Jesus just doesn't care so much if there's dust on our mantle, a stain on our teeth, or a scratch on our car. He isn't interested in how well our bedspread matches our curtains; He's interested in our spiritual maturity. Jesus teaches I will not find my worth in my ability to reach my perfect weight or accomplish my to-do list flawlessly, but in the fact that I am learning to reflect His character. To graciously give and receive love.

That's good news for a recovering perfectionist. Plus, as John writes in 1 John 3:18-19 of The Message: "My dear children, let's not just talk about love; let's practice real love. This is the only way we'll know we're living truly, living in God's reality. It's also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it."

Dear Lord, thank You for grace! Thank You for mercy! Thank You for empowering me to be like You as I submit to Your Word. And thank You for not caring about dust bunnies or stained shirts. Help me to care less about those things as well and focus my heart more on You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.


Anonymous said...

I struggle with perfection all the time! I always feel I'm not measuring up to what Christian should be. Sometimes it's gotten so bad I've even doubted I was saved, since I didn't have the perfect heart attitude all the time that Christians should have, but I have to remind myself, although I strive to be like Christ, to allow Him to live through me, I am still not 100% like Him while I live in this body of death. I will only be totally like Him when He comes again and I am changed. Still, in the mean time, I wish the "work in progress" would speed up a bit! lol

Jen Newsham said...

Jaime - I know how you feel. And I totally agree that I wish the work in progress part was already over.

Weightless said...

What a great reminder. I swear God knows when we need to hear things at the perfect time. Thank you. :)

Losing Brownies said...

I also struggle with perfection. I am very hard on myself when I do not perform well or do something right. Gadget Guy is always telling me that I need to be easier on myself, but I can't help it. I think its part of having a type A personality

Jen Newsham said...

Weightless - You're welcome. His timing IS perfect!!

Losing Brownies - I am type A personality too. I hope that overtime I will become more gracious with myself.

Kimberly said...

As a former perfectionist, I really appreciate this. I'm finally at the place where I no longer expect perfection in superficial ways. This is confirmation to me that I'm in the right place as God works in me to complete His good work. Thanks!!!

Jen Newsham said...

Kimberlynn - That is such an awesome testimony! Thanks for sharing.

bluemoose7 said...

I've found being honest and not trying to cover things up is the best policy. Sorry this happened to you today, but I'm glad you didn't waste any time to stop and talk to the right person. :-) Wishing you a better day tomorrow!


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