Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Illusion of Perfect

Hey Friend,

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  (Matthew 5:48)

Aww, God, really?  That's the feeling I get almost every time I come across this scripture.  For this self-described seeker of perfection, this verse sets the bar impossibly high....doesn't it?

How on earth can I be perfect like God?  Say it ain't so....

I grew up in a staunch Presbyterian church.  My behind was in that hard, uncomfortable pew every Sunday.  I heard the minister's voice from the pulpit, on high, echoing throughout the stone Gothic cathedral.  I was afraid, yet drawn at the same time.

In Sunday school, I learned the Ten Commandments (in the King James version).  It was a mighty list of "Thou shalt not's" that I took quite seriously.  I loved the pictures of Jesus bidding the little children to come to Him, but God??  I admit I was a bit intimidated, even afraid, of Him.  I knew not to mess with God, yet, deep inside I had a desire to please follow His commands.

I wanted to be one of those spoken about in Proverbs 2:20-21 (AMP)

So you will walk in the way of good men [that is, those of personal integrity, moral courage and honorable character], and keep to the paths of the righteous.  For the upright [those who are in right standing with God] will live in the land and those [of integrity] who are blameless [in God's sight] will remain in it....

I wanted to remain in the Land of God's Good Graces!

This isn't a scientific study, but I have noticed that the people I know who struggle the most with "perfectionism", who think they are far from perfect, continually strive to be perfect, and chide themselves way too much when they mess up, are actually some of the most upright people I know.

The ones who think they always fall short of the mark are the ones, to me, who are like the ones found in the Proverb's verse:  they have personal integrity, moral courage, and honorable character.  They are some of the most "upright and blameless" people I know.....yet they struggle so, and think they are so far from perfect and it literally pains them.

I wonder....could it be....that these seekers of perfection really DO love God a bit more than the rest of the world??

Here's the good and bad news as I see it:

GOOD:  I think a lot of perfectionists actually are people after God's own heart.  They love His precepts.  Many meditate upon them day and night.  They strive to walk upright lives before the Lord and are considered "good people" in the sight of others.  I believe they genuinely want to please God and walk in His ways.  On a worldly perfection scale of 1-10, they'd be hovering over a solid 9.  

BAD:  "Pride" gets in the way and we think we can achieve this perfection on our own and we care way too much about what others think.  "Fear" plays a role in us, in that we think God will be disappointed in us and we will end up out of His good graces.  We fear God's wrath.

Perhaps the worst news of all is that the enemy KNOWS that this is our Achilles heel and he goes after it with a vengeance.  He shouts things like, "See, you fell short again.  You're not good enough.  You'll NEVER be good enough.  God's disappointed in you and He's going to strike you down. You messed up again.  You're not perfect enough....."

I believe the enemy uses our good intentions and love of the Lord to bring us down.  He knows that being blameless in God's sight actually matters to us.  And so....he goes after the jugular.  And he's relentless.  

So where do we go from here?  Back to the Truth.  We hold up the enemy's lies to it (the Truth), and if his words (which ARE lies) don't match up with the Truth, we need to, have to, kick the enemy to the curb. It also helps to ask people close to us  (who know we struggle)  to remind us that we don't have to be perfect. Ahhh....breathe.

As for "Be perfect as the Father is perfect"  we know that:

John 14:6New International Version (NIV)

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
The ONE and ONLY route to the Father (Holy Perfection) is through the blood of Christ.  We can't earn it, strive for it, be perfect enough in our own doing.  We MUST go through Jesus.

1 John 1:9New International Version (NIV)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
When we mess up, God promises if we confess our sins He will forgive ALL our sins and purify us from ALL unrighteousness.  God has our lack of perfection covered.  He gives us the cure for our lack....confession.  This is the antidote for every perfectionist that walks the planet.  God's got it covered.  No sin too big to be forgiven.
So if you are seeking "the illusion of perfect", be easy on yourself.  Chances are you have a heart after God's own heart and He sees this. He already knows your heart. Examine how "pride" - how you want to appear in people's eyes may be trumping how you are viewed in God's eyes.  Ask if "fear" plays a roll?  Nowhere in the Bible does it say we can disappoint God.  We humanize Him way too much.  Read verses that dwell on the lovingkindness of God and ask for Him to work this Truth into your heart.  He will.
Last, know that the enemy is after you, but he doesn't have to win. He preys on your wanting to be blameless and among the upright.  He uses what really matters to you to tear you down...and he's ruthless.  Know that the everlasting arms of God are under you and take comfort that no sin is unforgivable and God cannot love you any more or any less than He already does.  He just doesn't work that way.  
"In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world."  (John 16:33)
Dear Heavenly Father,  Please forgive me for having you all wrong for so many years.  I praise you that your very definition is "love" and you cannot deny yourself.  Your heart is filled with lovingkindness and your patience is long-suffering.  I thank you that you are true to your promises to forgive all our iniquities if we just ask, and you remember them no more.  Remind me that, as your child, you ALWAYS see me as perfect because you see me through the blood of your Son.  Protect me from the lies of the evil one and let my mind be stayed on Your Word of Truth.  In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

What about you?  Do you ever struggle with perfectionism?  Do pride or fear play a role?  When God looks at your heart, what do you think He sees?  What helps you accept yourself just as you are?  Would you share?

Be blessed.....