Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Holiness vs Perfectionism

I want to be perfect.  I'm really not kidding.  I expect perfection.  Of myself.  In. All. Areas.

The area I expect perfection in the most is in the way I follow God.  My path toward God and with him is often a meandering one.  I'm okay with that.  As long as I'm meandering in a way that means I'm intently focused on him.  I'm not devout in areas that other Christians are.  I'm much harder on myself on areas that most people totally ignore.  

The problem with this is that I'm suffocating myself.  I'm smothering my own spirit.  Because along the way I have forgotten about my own humanity.  I want so much to follow Christ that I forgot that I am a person doing so.  I am not Jesus, although he was fully man, he was also fully God.  I clearly am not fully god.  I am a person, and the thing about being a person is that God created people, in His image.  He doesn't want me to be him (to be a god), he just wants me to be like him (who already is God).  And since he already did the work of making me like himself, I just need to do the letting go of leaning into who that is.  

I'm so stubbornly determined to do "it" right that I have lost all forgiveness for myself. I begin to believe that because I can't forgive myself that God doesn't either.  Watch out, there's some heresy.

None of it is true folks and the rest from my perfectionism comes at the feet of Jesus, when I say "I can't do this."  I want to sin.  I want to make justice happen.  I want force my will and control my situation.  I want to be the perfect scone baking, house cleaning, seminary studying, working, never yelling, impeccably writing, always praying, pillar of a mom. Thereby making an idol out of myself and who I want to be.  I want my kids to not struggle with the transition back and forth from their father's house every week.  I don't want to be angry at anyone ever, except myself for failing, that's allowed.

But I don't know where I got the idea that any of this was possible?  Where did I get the notion that being angry is always unholy?  God says repeatedly that he was angry.  Where did I get the idea that perfection was attainable? I'm not sure where I got those ideas but I will say that it is a slippery slope the one that says our emotions are bad, sinful and we should not feel them.  Silence your well deserved anger and you will find your ability to find happiness and contentment slipping away.  Squelch that notion inside you that let's go of perfection and you'll find yourself running constantly.  To silence the things that make us human is to lop off parts of us that make us like God.

Hear that again - To silence the things that make us human is to cut out the parts of you that make you like God.

Holiness comes in likeness and communion with God.  It is impossible to commune with God and others with as a false version of yourself.  When you aren't living in harmony with the reality of who you are, you are no longer yourself.  Have you ever tried to have a relationship with someone that lives behind a mask?  Those people that constantly talk about weather, sports, cars or what color they're painting their kitchen.  Those aren't people, they are polite versions of robots masquerading as people.  God has no desire for that kind of relationship.  It's not a relationship.  It's endless small talk.  Small talk makes me what to stab myself in the eye with a fork.

Cut out that part of you that feels angry with another?  Silence it, because you think it's not godly and you think it's bad that it's there.  You've just cut out a piece of yourself that God made.  How many slices do you think it will take before the lion's share of you is gone?  And then what is left of you?  A polite version of a socially acceptable, Christian robot. That's not what God wants.  He wants you.  All those broken parts.  The parts that scream at the top of your lungs at the injustice of life.  The part that eats ice cream instead of going running when you feel unattractive.  The part that harbors that emotion you're scared to admit you have.  Or really isn't sure at all what you believe.

There's not a mask that God will accept.  He's not being a jerk.  He wants the whole, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Once I begin thinking that I'm not handling life perfectly and that I'm not even handling my response to life perfectly I begin analyzing all of my responses, everything I'm doing or saying in life.  I begin thinking and over thinking and thinking some more about how I should or should not be responding, how I should or should not feel about what's going on, what I am or am not doing.  After that quickly comes the part of me that questions every decision I make, questions every decision I have made, losing the anchor of my life.  And then the steamroller that follows is depression.

No wonder I get depressed, I just systematically analyzed every part of my life, the spiritual, intellectual, emotional, relational and physical.  And based on my totally unrealistic analysis I found myself lacking in those areas.  And then the final nail in the coffin of my self assessment is that if I find myself falling this short, how much farther short am I really falling in the eyes of God.

This sucks people and I hate it.  But now I'm aware that I'm doing it.  I have barely slept last weekend.  I couldn't tell you want had me up at night.  Even when I felt safe I still was awake.  I call it haunting the house.  I feel like a ghost as I walk from room to room wondering what I'm doing there.  I know why am there but I imagine if ghosts were real they would wonder as they floated (assuming ghosts don't walk) why they were in someone's house? As I haunt, I wonder, why am I here God?  Why am I awake?  What am I allowing to haunt me?  Is there someone I need to pray for?   Or am I just hungry?  Sometimes it's just that simple.  Although often there's not enough clarity of thought in the middle of the night to get answers to any of those questions and I'm left exhausted, disillusioned and facing a long day in a busy life.

Sleeplessness and perfectionism aren't things I'm alone in.  I remember waking up as a child to my mother having been up all night making bread and scrubbing floors.  But I am perhaps alone in my condemnation of myself at such an unattainable standard.  Perhaps if I can find some grace today for myself I will find some sleep tonight.  Perhaps while holding the reality of my anger, in balance with my less than perfectly svelte self, who is serving fish sticks tonight for dinner, I can find the beauty in my imperfection.  I can stand back and instead of analyzing my shortcomings I can see how those fish sticks gave me more time to help my eldest with homework, allowed me to get a bedroom clean or that my motherly curves are just that, curves and not an indictment on my character.

As I come to peace with my imperfections I see that they are part of the image of God within me.  If I can accept them God is free to work through me as a whole person, not just the whitewashed parts of me I think he wants.   He rejoices in my acceptance of myself, because I am honoring his creation.  I cannot pick out of the parts of me I hate, insult them and call myself names without insulting a creation of God's.

"God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." Gen 1:27

I'm going to rest in my likeness to God, as far fetched as that seems.  He created us, to be like him.  He says so, I believe that.  And because I've staked my life on following him, I must think he's pretty cool.  Therefore, I can't be all that bad either.  

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