"So, you're a perfectionist."
This was my introduction to my track coach at our first practice.
At 14 years old, I'm not sure perfectionism was a term I really understood, but there we were, finishing a warm-up, I was learning a new stretch. He saw me imitating a new skill, observing carefully and mimicking it...he might've also seen determination to do it correctly.
If you knew me then - and even now - you'd likely agree with my track coach.
(And in many ways, he was right.)
Only well into adulthood did I discover perfectionism isn't a good thing.
All those years of striving in academics and athletics attempting to perform perfectly eventually took a toll...because I'm not perfect. And I can't be perfect.
With a perfectionist mindset you hold things tightly with a closed fist, like a toddler carrying a kitten, refusing to let it go. When facing my weaknesses and shortcomings, I responded with bold determination. Sin and failures I attempted to sweep under the rug. Exhaustion seeps in from trying to be good enough - which sure doesn't describe abundant life.
I was always terrible at art, so I avoided it. Same with golf. Running away from opportunities to serve or use my gifts because of the skewed understanding I "wasn't good enough" to do it.
Once I began digging into this syndrome of perfectionism, I didn't like what I found. I was working toward empty, unfulfilling goals, even in my spiritual life. The picture I wanted to paint of my life was an image I was labouring to craft and carefully create. But the Lord gently, yet vividly, reminded me, I'm not the artist of my life's journey, He is.
You can imagine the upheaval in my world when the Lord called us overseas to a new culture, a new language, and a new way of living. Completely out of my comfort zone, faced regularly with my own inadequacies and the challenges of life in the bush. Or as I began writing, starting a blog, regularly putting myself "out there" to serve others, where courage and conviction walk hand in hand with doubt and defeat.
In the discomfort is exactly where the Lord is adding layers to this canvas.
We crave the comfort of our own strength and accomplishments, but facing the unknown or our weaknesses is an opportunity to learn trust and dependance on the Lord. It's the upside-down nature of God's kingdom, for He, "chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God" (1 Cor 1:27-29). Pride weighs heavily on many of our ambitions and it will sink us if we're not paying attention.
What keeps us spiritually afloat is a heart of surrender. Whether it's a big goal or vision, a dream within reach, or whatever accomplishment we're clinging to - even godly roles and responsibilities can become idols, like family and ministry - we hold it before the Lord with an open hand. The latin phrase coram deo instructs us to consider all we do in the presence of God, under the authority of God and for the glory of God. Zeal for good works is God's exhortation for us, not from a position of pride, but one of dependance.
See, our weakness is where God is strong. We cringe hearing this, knowing well the frailty of our faith and our lingering propensity toward the things of the world, but he tells us, "my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor 12:9). His grace is enough. When the discomfort trickles over us and we're totally undone by our imperfections, especially then, we place our hope in Him.
So, as I click publish for the 500th time, I feel like an abstract canvas with random brushstrokes and haphazard colour splashes. I'll remember His good work is ongoing in and through me, for His glory and only by His grace, in everything this new year has to hold.
Which inadequacies do you face that you need to bring to the Lord?
Here's a free printable to help you remember truths of the Gospel in the midst of perfectionist tendencies. For the PDF, head over to the FREE STUFF tab and Log-In.