In today’s culture, striving for perfection is seen as an admirable pursuit. There’s a subliminal sense that working as hard as we can at all times and pushing ourselves to the brink of burnout is the key to opening the doors of opportunity in our careers and relationships.
As followers of Jesus, we know the Lord is the true author of our lives, and rest is just as important as work. We do our best to hand over our cares and anxieties to Jesus and entrust Him to eventually make our messes into good and beautiful things.
There’s a fine line between doing our best for the glory of God and striving for perfection. If we’re not careful, we’ll get stuck in the quick sand trap of perfectionism: the more we labor for flawlessness, the more we sink into the lie that the more we do, the more worth we have.
This is dangerous, not only for ourselves but for our relationship with God. There’s a fine line between doing our best for the glory of God and striving for perfection.
Perfectionism turns the focus back on ourselves and forgets what Jesus has already done for us.
It makes us forget that His power is made perfect in our weakness and that our flaws and mistakes are just another tool for God to display his grace, goodness and sovereignty.
I know this is harder said than done. Our mistakes or the decisions we make that don’t align with our core values as Christians make us want to run and hide. Shame comes barreling in, ready to wreck our sense of safety in the Lord and our relationships with those closest to us. But here is what I’ve learnt: forgetting our humanity is not the answer.
If we only live to manage our sins, we’ll miss out on experiencing true love and joy with God and with others.
There won’t be enough room for God’s gift of grace to sit with us, and to be a human loved by God is to know grace and forgiveness.
Building a deep and intimate relationship with the Lord means recognizing the full condition of our humanity, and that includes our imperfections.
Leaning into them and resisting the pull of perfectionism is a necessary part of our walk with Jesus.
When we look at the story of Adam and Eve, we can find hope as we learn how to face our imperfections while drawing closer to Jesus.
1. We must face our limitations
In Genesis 3:5, the serpent in the garden convinces Eve that she will be like God if she eats the fruit. She is deceived by the thought that she could be limitless, knowing both good and evil, and still preserve the perfect paradise God created for them.
It quickly became the original “be careful what you wish for” scenario. Adam and Eve decided they wanted to be limitless, so they ate the fruit, but what they immediately received was shame.
We have all experienced the temptation of wanting to be without limits. We forget the importance of things that we as humans were designed to need - rest, boundaries, support - just to name a few. Eventually, though, we experience the consequences of giving into the temptation. This usually looks like burnout, exhaustion, loneliness, and even mental illness.
When we begin to face our limitations, we give less power to our adversary. He can’t use our limits as a lure into sin because acknowledging our weaknesses, brokenness, and imperfections gives Jesus the space he needs to do a good work in our lives. We can stand just as we are, knowing the cracks in our humanity are filled with God’s strength and love.
I can’t imagine the catastrophic amount of grief Adam and Eve experienced when they eventually realized the magnitude of the consequences for their disobedience. As we see in Genesis chapter 3, it didn’t take long for this grief to take over.
After they gave into the serpent’s deception, they hid in the garden. God already knew this, but he asked where they were anyway. When they explained they were hiding because they were naked, God asked, “who told you that you were naked?” Again, God already knew the answer, but he had a purpose behind asking these questions - he wanted to draw close to them. He wanted to draw close to them in their grief and shame and pain.
When we choose to face the grief that comes with living in a broken world, God moves towards us. And through this, we become more acquainted with His mercy and grace. Facing our imperfections without grace would be disastrous in the long run. Shame would eventually throw us overboard if we never forgave our mistakes like Jesus already has.
In this moment with Adam and Eve, God put his grace on full display by continuing to provide for them even after they made their deadly mistake. This brings us to the last thing we must face to overcome perfectionism.
Despite Adam and Eve’s original sin that brought death into our world, God still made them clothes. Their sin was the reason they had to have them in the first place, but God still protected and provided for them by making sure they had what they needed.
We so easily forget how significant this is. It proves that since the beginning of time, God has cared wildly for us, even amidst our darkest and most devastating days. He moves toward us with love, not away in anger, when we make mistakes and miss the mark.
I also want to note that he not only made them clothes, but he made them better clothes than the ones they first made themselves.
We can trust and depend on him because He will be there to meet our needs better than we could on our own even when we fall short of being all we were created to be.
Finally, let’s not forget the most important part of turning our backs on perfectionism: we will always be pointed to Jesus. Because of Adam and Eve, we needed Jesus to defeat sin.
Because Jesus defeated sin, we are forgiven and made new. Perfectionism has lost its power. We will make mistakes. We will fall short. We will fail, even on the days we try our absolute best. But with Jesus, we can live freely and fully in His love knowing He will be there with His kindness and mercy in hand no matter what is to come.
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