"I'm Glad You're Not Perfect"
Staggering Under the Burden of Perfectionism
I was having one of those moments. The house was a mess. Dinner was not coming together. I was making a mental list of all the things that should be done and they weren't done. Everywhere I looked I saw failure. Failure to vacuum crumbs and dog hair, failure to mop up the paw prints and spilled stuff, failure to wipe away hand prints, wash dishes and clear counter spaces. Failure to complete the laundry. Failure to keep nice tidy, organized cupboards and closets. Since I was recounting all my failures, why not add the extra burden of my failure to transform my home into something worthy of pintrest? I don't think there is one single corner of my home that could be photographed and posted. What about my failure to be the nurturing, organized, full of fun mother I desire to be? I was feeling like a huge flop and that made me grumpy, so I banged around a few dishes as I rummaged around my messy space and then I felt even worse because I don't like being 'grumpy mom' I like being 'kind, patient, cheerful mom'. I let out a huge, exasperated sigh and said to the only child within hearing distance, "Oh Erica, I'm so sorry I'm not a more perfect mom." Erica didn't even look up, she kept busily working away at her project, but she answered me with these wonderful words. "I'm so glad you're not perfect."
I stopped bustling and frittering with my mess and gave my full attention to this conversation. This sounded promising.
"Why are you glad I'm not perfect?"
She looked up and said, "If you were perfect, I would feel so bad because I can't be perfect."
Yep. I know exactly what she means. Is that not exactly why I was having my 'lack of perfection' melt down? I was trying to live up to my ideal. An ideal compiled from the best of every book, blog post and article I've ever read. Maybe there are some folks out there that actually live up to those standards, but I suspect that many more do not. Trying to be picture perfect is a terrible weight.
Give Up or Live Up?
I loved my daughter for her willingness to forgive me my imperfections. I felt so much lighter knowing that it is helpful to her to see me struggling and carrying on. She sees that you don't have to be perfect for life to carry on. She sees that I struggle with housecleaning, cooking, and in spiritual growth too, but I think that it gives her hope.
I'm not going to give up trying to be an organized housewife. It is nicer to live in a house that is cleaned up and lets face it, it is very pleasant to open your underwear drawer and find clean underwear. There are books, blogs and articles that give excellent advice and I will keep reading them but I hope that I can keep some perspective; I do not have to BE those people. I can try to live up to some of the standards, but I don't have to panic when I don't. It's OK to have our flop times. Everyone has days when the crumbs multiply in miraculous proportions and no amount of faith seems able to budge the mountain of laundry. In fact, I'm thinking that there are watching eyes around us that secretly breath a sigh of relief when they see our failures - it gives them the freedom to be less than picture perfect too.
How Our Failings Can Encourage Others
There is a story in the Bible that disappoints me, angers me and encourages me every time I read it. It is the story of David and his sin with Bathsheba. It disappoints me because David was such a good king and a godly man and I just don't understand how he could call Bathsheba to him, knowing that she was married and then to have her husband ordered to the front lines to be killed in order to cover up his sin. It is so upsetting.
However, this story brings such hope to my own heart. I know that sin is sin in God's eyes, and any sin is enough to separate us from his presence. Human nature however, tends to rank sin. Murder and adultery are two "biggies", while pride and gossip are "not quite so bad". So when I read of David's sin, his confession and God's forgiveness it gives me so much hope. If God did not abandon David after committing some "biggies", then I know that all my failings can be forgiven too. I too can approach God and ask for His grace and His forgiveness and I will not be turned away.
By having this story in scripture, with all it's disappointing detail, I find hope for my own soul. Even David was not perfect. He really blew it. However, he knew what to do in his failure and he confessed and he was not abandoned by God and I know that when I blow it - be it a 'big' sin or a 'small' sin, I can ask forgiveness, be forgiven and carry on.
Consider a scenario where 2 or 3 Christians are together, they are sharing prayer requests and they begin with a time of confession with the purpose of asking prayer for spiritual growth. Suppose the first person asks for prayer because they are really struggling with spending time daily in Bible reading and prayer. They admit that they are able to get up early 5 days a week, but there always seems to be 2 days that they just can't seem to make time. It is a legitimate request. However, after the first person admits to this 'failure' to have a 7 day a week quiet time, do you really think the next person is going to open up and admit to the 'big' struggle in their life? Are they going to feel comfortable asking for prayer for their struggle with their temper, or their struggle with keeping their marriage vow?
This is how I feel about the story of David and Bathsheba. It breaks my heart that it happened. It disappoints me that the author of such beautiful psalms, depicting such a heart for God, could fall so far and do such horrible things. But then, it also gives me courage to come out of my hiding places and be open and honest before God and others, and I think that it encourages others too. They see the real flesh and blood me, loving God, living for God, falling down, getting up, walking - even running for a bit - oops a stumble, that's OK, get up and go again. If I cover it all up and hide it under a glossy surface, who will ever know what it is really like? Will they feel the burden to keep up and wonder why they can't? Will they be released from a self-imposed burden, if I release myself from the self-imposed burden of perfectionism? Can we all stop pretending to be perfect and instead, could we just journey along together, helping each other up when we stumble, cheering each other along and being open and honest about our struggles?
Wouldn't it be more encouraging?