I had the sweet opportunity to teach at the Ignite Conference at Willowbrook this weekend. The title of my topic was Letting Go of Perfect. I may have been there to speak into the hearts of women on the topic, but God had to step on my own toes before I ever stood before others.
As a responsible firstborn, I’ve struggled with the disease of perfectionism most of my life. There have been seasons I’ve considered myself in remission. Though even then, I’ve continually carried around the same desire for perfection. I still battle on a regular basis. Sometimes, I’m successful, sometimes I need rehab!
So, how did I get this way? Why do I feel the need to be so perfect, to look like I have it all together?
I’m going to have to blame it on Eve. Think about it. Before she sinned and ate of the fruit, she really was perfect–perfect job, perfect husband, perfect body (she was walking around naked for Pete’s sake.) But she wanted more. Satan convinced her she needed more. Satan’s desire became her desire.
That desire was to be god-like, to be in control, to be the one who set the standards and made all the rules.
Let’s get real. The driving force behind perfectionism is control. We want to obey God on our own terms so that we can look put together. We don’t want the mess. Mess causes things to look like their aren’t all together…that we don’t have the package. We’ve bought into the lie that if we have the package then others will love us and God will accept us.
The Bible actually addresses people like me that want to avoid the mess and desire for control. They were called the Pharisees. The Pharisees were clean, well put-together and respected by everyone but Jesus. Jesus wasn’t impressed with the Pharisees well put-together lives. Jesus was more interested in the ones who accepted the fact that life was messy.
It’s a hard reality to accept: the lack of control. Yet, whether we accept it or not, life is messy and we really can’t control it. We live in a messy world. We’re sinners, we marry sinners and give birth to sinners and go to work with sinners. Trying to pretend that we can transform any of those people (including ourselves) is futile. We’re not in control and the only one that has any power to transform is the Holy Spirit.
When David says in Psalm 51 “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me,” he wasn’t just referring to himself, but all of us.
Our identity as God’s children isn’t one of perfection, but a picture of His grace.
Grace is tough for the perfectionist. We realize we need it and we’re okay with accepting it–at least initially. Yet, we’re drawn back to the desire for control. We think we can help God out by adding to the completed work of Jesus.
I love what Paul says to the Galatians:
How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? Galatians 3:3
We are guilty of the same thing. We start with the Spirit; we start with salvation; we start with the undeserved grace of God, but then human effort creeps back into our spiritual lives like weeds returning to a weeded garden.
Just as control is so important to the Pharisee, it must be completely and utterly relinquished in order to recover what God intended for us. Control very well could be the Pharisee’s main addiction. Control means I get to work for and deserve what I get from God for the very reason that I am controlling it.”—John Fischer (from the book12 Steps to the Recovering Pharisee)
The bad news for the perfectionist is that we can’t do anything to deserve or work for God’s acceptance and approval. The good news is that we because of Jesus, we already have it.
Don’t misunderstand, God is looking for righteousness but He’s looking for it through the power of Jesus, not your own power.
Letting go of the picture of perfect in your mind and allowing God to give you a new picture–His picture–is the essence of worship. It tells God, “I’m not God and I don’t want to be God. I may have acted like I wanted to be God for a while, but I want you to draw your picture of perfect in my life.” That’s the essence of true worship–the absolute relinquishing of control.
Question: Do you find it hard to accept that God has a “perfect” picture He is painting in your life? What do you need to let go of in order to let God paint His picture?