The Path from Perfection
There’s gotta be more – better.
Maybe I need to be more – better.
Maybe I need to do more…
Yes, that’s it. I just need to change a few things. Work a bit harder. Serve a bit more. Be a bit kinder, quieter, calmer.
Now I’ve checked all the boxes. But still…
But still this anxiety lingers. Am I good enough? Is my faith strong enough? Will God bless me or do I need to be more – better? Do I need to do more?
Sounds exhausting, right? Like a treadmill that you can’t get off of, running mile after mile but going nowhere. You wish you could make it stop but you can’t seem to find the off switch.
That mental marathon was my reality. It was my default, my “resting” state.
Growing up in the church, I knew intellectually that God didn’t require anything of me. All He asked was that I accept Him and walk in faith. I accepted with a heartfelt yes, but it was the walking in faith part that tripped me up. I saw the actions that are often declared the makings of a “good” Christian, and I took that to be the definition of the walk – abiding by the checklist daily.
To me, the Christian walk was all about sacrifice and lessons to be learned and things to give up to God, and I was never sure I was doing it right or doing enough.
The crushing pressure of perfection can be paralyzing. Yes, we are made in God’s image, but somehow I took what is meant to be a declaration of my inheritance and turned it into a loan that had to be repaid.
I struggled to comprehend the fact that being a child of God does not come with a warranty. There is no expectation that I will live a perfect life. So why did I continue to take on a burden I was never meant to bear?
I was a Martha who had no idea how to live like Mary.
“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.
She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.
But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, 'Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’
'Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.
Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”
(Luke 10:38-42, New International Version)
God wanted me to stop what I was doing and sit at his feet. That’s all. But I was so busy trying to do all the right things that I was getting it all wrong. I was missing him. Wrestling with this realization caused me to look in the mirror and admit that my works-based faith was rooted in a lack of trust in God.
I was scrounging for scraps on the ground while my Father had already prepared an extravagant feast before me. But sitting at the table required a level of faith I wasn’t familiar with. I couldn’t grasp God’s grace the way I could grasp a set of standards on a manmade Christian to-do list.
I once heard a pastor say God cannot be both a benevolent dictator and the man who went to the cross. Either He’s the one who loved you so much that He sent His son to die for your sins or He’s a malicious trickster that requires you to jump through hoops for blessings. But He can’t be both.
So if I choose to believe He’s the former then I have to let go of the latter.
To all my sisters who are struggling with the stress of getting it just right – I’m happy to report that you will fail. And that’s good news, because you serve a God who expects as much and has already filled that gap with His perfect love. So now, rather than trying to figure out how to give yourself some grace, it’s time you accept the grace He’s already given you.
You cannot hold onto your desire for perfection or your anxiety about not being good enough and simultaneously hold onto the Father’s hand as He directs your path. You never fully grasp the full love of Christ – His reckless, transformative, mighty love – if you’re so busy latching onto the lies the world tells you.
Shifting from a Martha to a Mary mindset required an unraveling of lies. It still does. I have to choose every day to let go a bit more. It’s messy, it’s imperfect and I often find myself going back to my checklist in an effort to regain control. But I now know what it feels like to experience the full freedom of God’s grace. Sure, people will see my imperfections. But that also allows them to behold Christ in me.