Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Perfection Problem

“As for God, His way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; He shields all who take refuge in Him.” Psalm 18:30

I am a perfectionist. Being a perfectionist can be a strength. If you want a job done well, ask a perfectionist. A perfectionist will put as much time, energy, and focus into the project as is possible. When my high school teachers assigned a group project, I was the person you wanted on your team. I usually took on the majority of the workload, and the assignment earned high marks for everyone in the group.

Being a perfectionist can also be a burden. Because I hold myself to certain standards, I often exhaust myself with the tasks I take on. I can have unrealistic expectations of my husband, children, friends, and co-workers. I am always thinking about how I might improve upon things. I live with anxiety and insecurity because I know that even my best is not enough. We live in a competitive world, and there is always going to be someone smarter, more talented, or better qualified.

Perfectionism can be a problem for those who believe it is possible to attain. The Portals of Prayer devotion from March 7th was entitled The Prison of Perfection. The devotion spoke of the early Jews, who were subject to the Law. The laws they were supposed to keep to be right with God were complex and detailed. It was impossible to keep them perfectly. The Law was enslaving. Under the Law, there was no peace.

Martin Luther knew this. He suffered great anguish knowing his failings, wondering if he could ever be good enough to earn God’s favor. He knew that a just and holy God could never look upon him with mercy. Luther knew that according to the Law, he was damned and without hope.
We are in the midst of the season of Lent. During Lent, we focus on our human inadequacy. We know that we cannot earn heaven. We are brought to repentance. We know that we need help if we are ever going to be “on God’s good side.”

Lent is also the time when we look forward to Easter. When Martin Luther studied scripture and understood the Gospel, he finally felt that the chains holding him were unlocked. He understood that Jesus Christ kept the Law perfectly for us. Christ kept the Law, and He suffered the punishment of the Law in our place. Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf is acceptable to God. Christ’s resurrection on Easter morning shows that He conquered sin and death and we have nothing to fear. We have been given the glorious gift of grace.

I constantly encounter people who do not want to hear about sin or the devil. It causes them discomfort. They give eternity very little thought because facing our mortality is also uncomfortable. They make their way through this life under the delusion that they are “good enough.”

I consider my perfectionistic nature to be a blessing from God. It is a “thorn in the flesh” that has caused me great distress at times. However, as I’ve matured, I’ve learned that there are times when circumstances dictate that I need to accept my imperfection. I need to let go of things out of my control and ask God to allow His grace cover the situation. These are times when I experience unspeakable relief. We cannot truly appreciate grace without experiencing the burden of perfection. I thank God for my weakness. For it is through my weakness that His strength is revealed.

Dear God, thank you for this season of reflection and awareness and for the joy of Easter which is to come. Thank you for covering our unworthiness with Christ’s perfection. Please allow the message of the Gospel to continue to touch those who are walking in darkness. In Jesus’ holy name we pray, Amen.

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