The Deception of Perfection

August 20, 2022 THE MMA TEAM

On the Enneagram, I’m a type 1. Also known as “the reformer,” I’m driven by perfection. I strive for accuracy all the way down to crossing my “t”s, dotting my “i”s and using accent marks when I’m writing in Spanish.

The goal of perfection isn’t bad in itself, it’s normal to want to work hard and do the best we can. It’s when this pursuit becomes an obsession, when we run after being the best over being our best, that we find ourselves in danger.

Before I personally encountered Jesus, I strived to always exceed expectations.

Instead of desiring more of Him, I thirsted for the best status, record, and resumé, and yet no matter how hard I tried, I found that my greatest effort was never enough.

I celebrated my successes until I was reminded of my limitations. I didn’t always reach the target, nor did I  always get the acceptance I craved.

To compensate for my shortcomings, I pushed myself to try harder and held myself to unattainable standards. Nothing could keep me from overworking in my attempts to achieve more, do more, or be more. 

During my last year of college, I had secured the perfect transcript and was confident that I would soon land my dream job.

On paper, I was the ideal student and career-oriented professional, but internally, I became entangled in the lie that God was done with me. I was so focused on my studies that I hadn’t stepped out in faith like I wanted. I wasn’t bold or brave, nor did I deeply immerse myself in Scripture. Academically and professionally I thrived, but spiritually I felt stuck.

I had no goals beyond my education and career, yet I longed for God to use me. I wanted to be perfect, so much so that I forgot to make myself available to God. This was a harsh wake-up call to reality.

One October afternoon in my time away with God, I found myself seated at the top of a hill, surrounded by an array of vibrant leaves and a serene lake. The breeze was chilly, yet calming. I became saturated in silence as I journaled my prayers and thoughts to God. He met me there, as gently as the delicate breeze, and directed me to open my Bible to 2 Corinthians 12. To my surprise, it was the apostle Paul preaching about God’s grace. I wept as I read verses 9-10:

 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (ESV)

Paul recalled an encounter with Jesus whose grace covered all sin. We receive His grace, His unearned favour, without having to strive. We take on His perfect record when we lay down our’s, no matter how flawed or broken we may seem.

In the context of this chapter, Paul speaks of a thorn in his flesh which has not yet been removed. It’s because of this inconvenience that Paul has a personal encounter with God’s grace. He develops a new strength and a new perspective. His weakness is a reason to be glad. In his shortcomings, Paul wasn’t perfect, but he became the perfect candidate to receive and speak of God’s grace.

We are all imperfect people. Nobody is exempt from the sting of failure or rejection. If we were flawless, we wouldn’t need a Saviour.  We would be independent, ego-filled individuals, creating a false god out of our own selves.

The only way we could ever earn the label of “perfect” is by being the exact opposite, so Christ’s work can be displayed through us.

When we’re broken, we’re the perfect vessel for God to repair and make whole.

When we feel useless, we become the perfect tool for God to use.

When we feel hopeless, we’re the perfect person for God to infuse with hope.

When we feel stuck, we're in the perfect position for God to do something new.

Society cringes at our failures and tells us that we will never be enough. We’re supposed to hide our shortcomings and not tell of the times we’ve made mistakes. But that’s not realistic. We will always come up short or do things imperfectly.

In a place of fear and frustration, Jesus met me with an embrace of His grace. He covered my flaws with His flawlessness, and shielded me in His success so my performance didn’t matter any longer. I was finally free from the frivolous pursuit of perfection.

I no longer want to be perfect. I no longer strive for the title of “good enough.” In Christ, I’m already enough.

I still choose to give my best effort, but I no longer obsess over the details that steal my time away from God.  My Enneagram type is the one that strives for perfection.  It’s a quality I have, but it is not who I am. Rather than allowing my work to determine my worthiness, I now rest in God’s love and grace.

My shirt from Make Me Available says “DOER: Dream, Overcome, Exceed, Repeat.” I know that apart from Jesus, I can’t do anything. He gives me dreams and because of His grace, I can overcome any opposition. I will exceed because in my weakness, Jesus makes me strong. His character is consistent, and I am available, so we repeat this cycle as He uses me to advance His kingdom.

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