The Quest for Perfection

I was a naive freshman in college, walking around with a load of books on my back and a new, strange world of possibilities in front when someone posed this question to me:

“Do you think it’s possible for us to be perfect and without sin? Even for just one second? Like maybe when you’re in the middle of worshipping God?”

That someone was my small group leader, an outgoing, assertive girl two years older than me. We were sitting in her apartment, along with a couple of other freshman girls, talking about the Bible. The discussion was interesting, if not ordinary, until that question popped up.

There was silence, and something in my brain or heart didn’t feel right about her theory. I had sat through enough sermons and Sunday school lessons to know that the whole point of Jesus dying on the cross was to save us from our sins. If we could be perfect for even a second, why would we need to be saved? Couldn’t we then try a little harder to be perfect until we got good at it? That’s a rhetorical question of course. Even if we did everything we possibly could think of, or didn’t do anything at all, we still wouldn’t get any closer to perfection.

Because perfection is not a feeling or an act or thought or even a state of being. It’s more an essence, something intrinsic, and at the core.

But the thing is, even though we can’t achieve perfection, we’re always on the quest for it. We want the best results at school or work, we want the ideal marriage, we want the healthiest kids. We even want the cleanest and shiniest produce at the grocery store. (Tell me I’m not the only one who inspects a dozen pieces of fruit before picking the “perfect” one. LOL)

Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix/freedigitalphotos.net

Why then do we have an obsession with perfection? Maybe because we were made to appreciate beauty. To be drawn to wholeness. To desire goodness.

Perfection isn’t a bad thing. But when we look around at the world, and the people in it, and especially ourselves, we see quite the opposite. There’s a lot of imperfection out there and there’s just as much in us, too.

Sounds pretty hopeless, doesn’t it? But it isn’t.

It’s a good thing we can’t be perfect and without sin. Not even for one millisecond. Because the burden to be perfect would be too great. It would crush us. Instead, it crushed the only Perfect One who took our place on the cross. That’s the perfection of the Gospel. That’s why tomorrow is Good Friday and Easter Sunday is even gooder. 🙂

Perfection isn’t the enemy. But if we’re going to pursue perfection, may we pursue Jesus, the only one who can make us whole.

Take a listen to Tori Kelly’s song, “Hollow”, which she has described (when she was a guest mentor on The Voice) as her prayer to God. I love these lyrics:

“I confess my weakness
Till you pick up the parts that are broken
Pour out your perfection on me now”

What have you been chasing in your quest for perfection?

Practicing What I Teach

“It’s okay to be frustrated. You’re learning something new. I can help you. Let’s try again.”

I repeated these words as I held and rocked C in my lap. Just moments before she had been working on her homework packet and I had been cleaning out the guinea pigs’ cage. Her little, high-pitched voice had called out to me as I was scooping up pellet-sized poop into a bag to ask, “Is this right?”

I craned my neck from my seat on the floor to see the paper she held up. She had circled: rectangle, circle, triangle, rectangle; circle, triangle, rectangle; circle, triangle. “No, try again. Make sure each set of the pattern starts with the same shape.”

She sighed her signature sigh, which to be accurate is more like a half groan/half roar. With an eraser in her dimpled hand, she began undoing her work. Half a minute later, she asked again, “Is this right?”

The process repeated again. “No, try again,” I replied.

Groan/roar. Erase. Groan/roar. Erase.

It was after probably the fourth cycle that I saw C plop herself down on the tile floor and burst into tears.

Oh dear.

Fortunately I had finished refilling the guinea pig cage with clean bedding by then. I closed the metal door, rushed to the sink to wash my poopy hands and then hurried over to stop the waterworks.

As I sat there comforting a very distraught kindergartener, I couldn’t help but smile. Yes, the situation was a dire one – the homework paper had been written on and erased so many times that it was now covered in gray eraser bits – but thankfully it was an easy one to fix. After letting C belt out her tears (her wails could almost be categorized as melodic), I turned her around in my lap and resumed my pep talk.

“It’s okay to be frustrated. You’re learning something new. I can help you. Let’s try again.”

I spoke those words to C that day, but I could very well have been speaking them to myself. Because it was only a few days ago that I felt like plopping down on the floor and wailing my own version of a cantata.

I had been sitting in the dark by the light of my laptop (in the wee hours of the morning) and attempting to set up a website. I had been calculating and recalculating the money I have spent on my new business venture and wondering when/if I will be able to recoup the costs. I had been frustrated and stressed out by the tasks I still need to complete and the timelines I want to meet.

In short, I was having a (recovering) perfectionist moment. A total “I have to have things done the way I want, but things are not working out right now, so can I crawl into a hole and hide?!” moment.

Hmm. These “moments” are much cuter when a five year old has them. (Side note: C is not a perfectionist; she was just being a five year old.)

Thankfully, hubby was my voice of reason. The next day when I poured out my frustrations to him, he basically said the same thing I would later tell C: “This is your first time doing this, just learn as you go. Don’t worry about the money. Just enjoy the process.”

I wanted to respond, “Enjoy the process, my foot!”, but instead I sighed my signature sigh, which meant gritting my teeth and half growling/half roaring. (Hm, I think I see a trend here, LOL). I picked myself up, dusted off my bum (figuratively speaking) and made the decision to throw my timelines, expectations and all the “shoulds” I had given myself out the window.

So here I am a few days later still reminding myself to breathe deeply, massaging the stress knots out of my neck and shoulders and saying a lot of prayers.

Most of all, I’m trying to focus on being, creating, enjoying, and NOT stressing because …

Real-Values

 

The song, “Under Pressure” could have been my theme song this week. 😛 Here it is sung by Queen and David Bowie (I’m dating myself again with this song choice, haha).

How do you deal with the pressure of perfection?

P.S. C finished that homework problem correctly on her next try and with a triumphant smile on her face. 🙂