Flashback to 1999. I am a twenty-two year old first year law student. If you know anything about becoming a noteworthy law student, you will be a member of a “law review.” Yes, you can be smart enough to be invited to be a member or you can go through the painstaking task of writing an exceptional article that just might be good enough to get you “written” into the law review. The latter is me. Yes, the latter is me, because “good enough” and “perfect” are my middle names.
Flashback to 1988ish, 1993ish, or 1997ish. It all looks about the same. Living under the burden of achievement and perfectionism. One can be fairly successful at achievement and perfectionism until failure hits you smack dab in the face. And, then it’s time to look into the mirror.
Failure. My hard work, dedication and brains failed me brutally that first semester of law school. I didn’t shine, I wasn’t smart. I was defeated, broken and tired. My parents raised us to believe that we could do anything, be anything. That we were equal to others no matter wealth, race, gender, education or religion. At that time, I saw no equality; I judged myself of lesser value than my classmates. And, without His permission, in the depths of these crashing waters, I determined that I must have failed Him as well. I wasn’t sure where I would stand now that I was less than perfect.
In the late fall of 1998, I looked at myself in the mirror of my mom’s bathroom. I had about 18 inches of notes, case law and articles in my arms – – ready to be reviewed for my write-on to the public interest law review. I am not sure exactly how it happened. The Spirit said something to me without words. He gave me His permission. My mom had a pretty big wicker garbage can right below me. I dropped every last paper into the garbage can in one, single shot. I walked out on perfectionism. And, the law review too.
Law school was my defining moment. Not academically, but spiritually. God put me under circumstances that I could not bear; under pressure that I could not rise out of without Him. This thread of perfectionism had grown longer and stronger in me over the years. And while planning, organizing, working hard and achieving are all good qualities; they are minor and inconsequential in comparison to the good work God does in you. For one, your greatest achievement is God saving you. Once that rang clear in me, once I breathed in that my very, greatest work was something He did, I then started the journey in getting lost in Him. Of sinking into His arms. Of seeing His intervention in my life to make all things happen according to His plan.
A few months ago, I grabbed a book on sale called “The Relief of Imperfection,” by Joan C. Webb. In some ways, it has taken me back to the garbage can in my mom’s bathroom. I have the thrilling feeling of that moment tucked away in my spiritual memory. And the years following, even until now, I have great love for my Savior who has shown up so faithfully for my good. I recognize, to this day, that He can do all these things without my help. I don’t need to be Him, I only need to be me.
This is from my heart. If you are like me, you have a tendency to take God’s standard of excellence, and ring yourself out dry with perfectionism. God can’t do much with you when you are a dried out rag. It is your relationship with God that matters. God “has no unrealistic expectations of you and me. He just expects us to be the person He designed us to be.” Joan C. Webb, The Relief of Imperfection.
I will leave you with my “forget” list. I hope that you will add your own “forgets” to it and get on with your highly anticipated, highly imperfect life of you running the good race with Him as your partner.
Here is my forget list:
- Forget the appearance of your imperfect marriage, family or kids. That also means to accept where God has you. Don’t drool over another’s life or isolate yourself because you think you are different. You are part of God’s family. That is enough.
- Forget where you live and what that says about you. That also means forget about your beat up car or your Mercedes-Benz – – whichever it is for you. You have a home (and a ride) in heaven. That is more than enough.
- Forget who you want to be. “. . . As God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk.” 1 Corinthians 7:2. “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality.” Deuteronomy 10:17. There are no favorites; yet you are His favorite. That is better than good and far exceeds enough.