I have decided to embrace progress, not perfection.
After 51 years of research on the subject, and a firm grasp of the obvious, it appears I will not be able to achieve anything close to perfection in this lifetime. Actually, I don’t think perfection is the right word to describe the struggle. I don’t mean robot-like, Stepford Wife perfection, a clearly ridiculous and unappealing goal. But the more I think about the things which keep me stuck, the more I realize I have secretly harbored an unrealistic vision of what being a grown up looks like. I expected a certain completeness, a sense of having arrived at the final version of me. Ta da! Here I am, world! I had hoped by now to have achieved a clarity of calling, the right balance of work and play, healthy relationships with food, my body, my family, my friends, my money, my colleagues, the Church and God. Check, check, check. All done! Yay Team!
The problem really begins when I interpret anything less than this utopian ideal to be failure.
Most of us operate- behave, react, make choices- out of the beliefs we have about ourselves, our world and our God. A child who believes he or she is valued and loved behaves differently than a child who believes he or she is unwanted. If a child has been told they are trouble, they will interact with the world from that truth.
When I set a vision of perfection or being “complete” as the goal, mistakes and detours become the enemy and repeated failure the result. My failure defines me and I am never, ever enough. When I operate from this belief- when I believe I am a failure and not enough- I am always hustling to prove my worthiness. And hustling to prove my worthiness by constantly looking and acting like some nebulous definition of “good” is exhausting…a moving target, a futile pursuit. It feels like I’m trapped on a hamster wheel. Frankly, I give up.
One of my favorite phrases in scripture is found when God offers to show us the way to a “spacious place.” At least three times, He mentions this place of rescue, refuge and rest:
Psalm 18:19 “He brought me out into a spacious place, He rescued me because He delighted in me.”
Psalm 31:8 “You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place.”
Job 36:16 “He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food.”
Here is what I am coming to understand about this spacious place to which we are invited. God’s spacious place is:
- a place of learning, growing, exploring, forgiveness, redemption and joy
- a place of authenticity and freedom to use our unique God-given gifts to love our broken world
- a place where we are free to try new things, make mistakes and learn from them
- a place free from the tyranny of self-absorption and eternal navel-gazing
- a way out of the comparison and competition game
- a place where our only measure of success is moving ever closer to God and His Kingdom
- a place of progress, not perfection
A spacious place is the opposite of boxed in, backed into a corner, can’t find my way out places. A spacious place is full of opportunity and possibility. Don’t miss the part in the verse from Psalm 18 where we learn the reason for our invitation to the spacious place: God delights in us! He has named us Beloved.
I think Jesus was inviting us to God’s spacious place in Matthew 11. I especially love this translation:
Matthew 11:28-30 The Message “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
The unforced rhythms of grace…I am already fully loved, fully forgiven, fully redeemed, fully complete. I have nothing to prove, so I can joyfully walk and work with Jesus and discover my important part to do for the Kingdom. My process of transformation, which God promises He will complete in His perfect timing, is better left in His capable hands. My job is to show up, be real, do the next right thing and love God and His people with all my heart, mind, soul and spirit. Period.
One brave step towards Jesus every day. Progress, not perfection. Will you join me?
Welcome, #livefreethursday friends! This week’s theme over is I Give Up. For more wonderful thoughts on this theme, click on the graphic below.