Perfectionism Separates Us From God & Kills Our Growth
If there's one thing that can derail me faster than any other it's my fear of not being able to do something perfectly. This desire for perfection has impacted my relationships, my health, my education, and many other opportunities I gave up without even trying. But the one area that I see the most damage is in my spiritual life.
Maybe you can relate. Christianity holds pretty high standards. If we're supposed to be "little Christs" and Jesus Christ himself lived a perfect life, well that's a weighty responsibility.
But the truth is, God knows we are imperfect, sinful people and he never tells us we must reach perfection in our lives. That's the very reason he sent his son to die on a cross and be resurrected. He did that for us--so that we wouldn't need to live with the heavy burden of sin and imperfection. He knows that when we see perfection as our standard, we become frozen in fear and unable to move forward.
Instead of calling us to perfection, God calls us to righteousness. It is still a high standard, but one with a heavy measure of grace rather than condemnation. Righteousness is falling down and getting back up. It's realizing we messed up and choosing to lift up our chins and walk back towards God.
Righteousness always calls us closer to God, but when we strive for perfection, it drives us further away from him. When we attempt perfection in our spiritual lives, we cannot grow into the women God has made us to be.
Bible Reading: We Must Read the Right Way
Have you ever started a reading plan or committed to reading your bible every day only to miss a day and give up altogether? The lie of perfection tells us that if we miss one, we're done. There's no point in trying, because we've already proven to be failures.
Instead of accepting grace for a missed day and continuing on, we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to grow in wisdom and learn more about our Heavenly Father. We allow a mess up to make a greater mess of our lives.
There is no right way or right time or right translation to read. We need to approach our reading from a posture of humility--one that says "I'm not perfect, but God will teach me how to be righteous if I read his word."
The key is to open your bible (or app) and just start reading. Whether it was an hour ago or a year ago, God is pleased with our current obedience and desire to connect with him.
Prayer: We Must Say the Right Words
Have you ever avoided praying by yourself or with others because you were afraid you wouldn't say the right words? The lie of perfection tells us that God won't listen to us if we don't say the right words. And if we're not seeing answers to our past prayers, we might be tempted to believe that all our prayers were wrong and that's why God seems silent.
It's not perfection God desires, it is righteousness.
And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
- James 5:15-16
We should be less concerned with our words and more concerned with the state of our hearts. Are we coming to God with humility? Are we confessing our sins? Are we telling God our deepest desires while accepting that God's will is our ultimate desire?
I recently heard someone say that Holy Spirit is our mediator--that the Spirit takes the words of our hearts before God. If we speak the "wrong" words or even no words at all, Holy Spirit is the conduit between our hearts and God's. I believe that the Spirit brings our prayers to God as a pleasing offering.
Faith: We Must Make all the Right Decisions
Have you ever been frozen in indecision because you were afraid to make the wrong choice? The lie of perfection tells us that if we make the wrong choice, we'll be stuck with it. There are choices we make that have lasting consequences, but we are always able to pivot.
We have a God of second chances who delights in our willingness to come running back to him when we mess up. We are all the prodigal son at some point in our lives. We are always welcome home, no matter how poor our decisions.
When we allow perfection to run our lives, we end up depriving ourselves of the opportunities God places before us. When we're too afraid we'll fail, we let fear drive our decisions instead of faith.
God knows we won't make every right decision, but he asks us to keep choosing faith. When we learn to surrender our lives to God, we no longer have to falter through all the decisions by ourselves. And when we inevitably fail again, God's still right there waiting for us to take the next step in the right direction.
God's grace means that when we step off his perfect path, we can step back on it over and over again. Perfection will not get us into the Kingdom, but continually pointing our hearts towards God will keep us going in the right direction.
Give yourself grace today. Instead of trying to be perfect, seek God's righteousness. When our hearts desire God, we realize that he's been right there beside us the whole time.