A couple of weeks ago, I sat in the living room floor of my in-laws apartment. The kids and I were working on some of homeschool work during our month long stay overseas. One of our most important pieces of school work were the travel journals where they recorded some of our big events of the trip.
Nadya, 2nd grade, who loves art, would mostly draw out her days. I did have her write about it a little just for the practice. Nolan, Kindergarten, is a bundle of energy, so you can imagine most of his schooling is done quickly and often with some movement involved. He does not like to draw or color. So I had brought a long some stickers I thought might be relevant and would ask him each day about what he had done or experienced. However, this one day he really wanted to draw about our time at the festival to celebrate the city’s birthday. We had watched knights do exercises and eventually a sword fight. He began to draw a sword. He was actually doing better and being more careful than usual. It quickly took a turn for the worse when he glanced at his sister’s work. Although drawing something different, hers had lot of detail. As you can imagine this led to tears, frustration, and even declaring that his was better and then ripping out the page. Trying to console him and encourage him one of the things I said was, “It doesn’t have to be perfect.”
Later that day, I found myself thinking of how I could have done things better during the trip and just beingcritical. And then it hit me, “It doesn’t have to be perfect.” How many times have I told my children that? Many. Especially to my oldest as she is hard on herself. The trip had really been fantastic. The trip of a lifetime and yet I could find moments that I had misspoken or failed to react in the best way or opportunities I wish I had jumped on. That’s part of being human. We are not perfect so why do we make these demands of ourselves. My personal opinion is that we long for perfection because we were made for it.
Apparently I needed to meditate on this more because several days later I saw a link on Facebook to the blog of my pastor, Robert Cunningham titled “The Enslavement of All or Nothing.” He said, “Perfectionism, at its core, is the lie of all or nothing thinking. If it’s not perfect it’s worthless. The problem of course is that perfection, this side of glory, is unattainable, which then leaves us with perpetual worthlessness.” I see this in Nolan ripping out his picture, that honestly was one of his best ever. I see this in so many of my girlfriends who don’t like the image they see in the mirror. I see it in men who are driven to be workaholics. I see it in myself in so many ways and so many levels – be it motherhood, being a wife, having a small business, being a follower of Christ. I see it in my friends as they wrestle with issues in relation to their faith.
Robert goes on to say, “If you take the all or nothing paradigm of perfectionism and evaluate your faith, then you will never experience the joy and freedom that is yours in Christ….Life as fallen creatures in a fallen world will never be all or nothing. It is profoundly beautiful and profoundly broken and we need to be okay with that tension. We bless God for what He has done in our lives, we are quick to repent and receive His grace for the remaining hypocrisy, and we eagerly await the day of our perfection that is promised to us.”
My heart cries out that yes this is true. All realms of life are messy. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Let’s live life to the full, follow hard after Jesus, take risks, ask the hard questions, love deeply, fight for justice and peace.