Perfection and futility

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clay pot  “There I go again!”  as hammering self-condemnation reprised.  I had just done what I didn’t want to do, overeat.  Nothing really sinful in that per se, except that overeating is a gateway to my sin of self-centered, interior moping. More familiar than any other melody is my original adaptation of the human ‘Ode to my Pitiful Self’.

But thanks be to God and Bible-centered preaching and writing! Pastor and teacher John Piper rescues imperfect sheep prone to turn inward by proclaiming a recurring life-giving message of: “Don’t waste your disappointments, trials, suffering, failures,……”

God must have thought it was time to break my bent towards control and perfection with this sovereignly ordained ‘trip-up’.  So what galls me the most?  What sends me into despair each time I let myself down and overeat? Certainly not His condemnation, but MY disappointment with myself.

Here’s the rub:  Why am I even surprised that I can’t do what I want to do?

Like Paul, I wail: I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. Romans 7:15

“Stupid!,” this home-grown expectation or gateway toward self-chastisement. A recent podcast drove that home.  The speaker had been in therapy for a broken marriage and started to heal when she made the connection between her:

  1. Assumption that I CAN be perfect (do what I want to do)
  2. Anxiety over the burden of trying to be perfect
  3. Bondage to control in order to gain perfection

I suddenly saw the futility when I realized that we were never meant to strive for perfection.  In fact, God has intentionally designed us the opposite!  The human model comes with abundant limitations.  We see them as flaws; He ordains them as gateways for God’s glory and grace to show.

...we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 2 Cor 4:7b

Breakable clay is the term for earthenware. In Paul’s time, vessels, plates, jars, cups were made of a clay mixture containing oyster shell pieces. God has purposefully made us out of crumbly stuff.  The Almighty Father and Creator made us delicate and fragile so that we would depend and rest on Him to do all that He calls us to do.  He didn’t aim to populate His kingdom with self-sufficient, sturdily consistent perfect little beings.

That is good news, brothers and sisters.  Let it go, all those expectations of how you want to act.  Yes, we are called to be imitators of Jesus, to be holy because God is holy.  But He knows we are going to blow it, multiple times a day.  Why are we the last to accept that?

Holy Spirit, remind me straight away when I miss the self-assigned mark I naïvely think will make me feel good about myself.  Grow me a new song,

a melody of music“Here I go again, a perfectly designed child of my Father who just sent me a love note that says, ‘Maria, come to me with your mess; don’t be surprised, you just need to give it a rest and flop down and swim in my grace and love!‘”

 

 

One little insight – one big release

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cricizing others

 

 

 

 

John 21: 21-22 

(Speaking of the disciple John…) when Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

Mathew 7: 2 

..because the way that you judge others will be the way that you will be judged, and you will be evaluated by the standard with which you evaluate others.

**

For several years now, I have felt judged and found wanting by a person close to me. That is NOT a fun feeling.  As a result, I have kind of gone on the offensive, seeking to please this person to get on her good side.  Call it depositing brownie points in anticipation of the next time when I fail to meet her standards.

I have struggled with these negative vibrations/feelings:  ranging in thinking that they pointed to a real deficiency in me to deciding that they were groundless; that maybe indeed I had just imagined them!  Nonetheless, the feelings have kept me from relaxing around her and from feeling that being myself was NOT enough or allowed.  Like I always had to be on my best behavior.  Can you relate?

But the other day, I learned something….or rather observed something that freed me from this unequal balance.  I heard HER lament out loud the very deficiency for which I have felt blamed all these years. And suddenly I understood that SHE was the one imprisoned in a world of ‘guilt and shoulds’.  What I had perceived as a criticism of ME was the shadow of the heap of guilt and judgment she laid daily on herself. Suddenly I felt compassion for her and liberation for me.

Hard on yourself

 

 

 

 

Now I know more clearly how to pray for this friend. And…

I wonder whom I myself have burdened with an unfair judgment that is really a projection of a SELF-judgment!

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