Wednesday, December 2, 2015

My Companion

I have a companion. I’ve known her since childhood. When I ran races in high school and college she made me run one more mile. As a student she made me proofread the essays one more time and listen to the tape of the class to make sure I didn’t miss anything important the first time around. As a pastor she makes me wonder if I am doing a good enough job or not.

A picture I took this summer. Edited, of course, to make the colors pop a little.

I’ll give her credit where it is due. Any excellence I have achieved, I most likely owe to her. I have some medals and trophies and diplomas and awards. She helped me attain every one of them.

She has also cost me a lot of stress over the years. The extra miles caused a dozen injuries. The pages cost me social interaction. Reading and writing are done alone. I think of the times the boys wanted me to play or talk and I was too busy or distracted doing the work of the church. For all her possibilities, in the grand scheme of things, she has been a pretty cruel companion. 

Her name: Perfectionism. 

When I was a kid, I heard a saying from many people I looked up to: “If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.” I wish I hadn’t listened. 

I think of the people I didn’t meet. The things I didn’t try. The opportunities I missed. The days filled with stress. The unnecessary nights of anxiety. Perfectionism fears rejection and failure. 

Although I still occasionally call on her, she is no longer welcome in my life because I finally figured something out: I’m not perfect. Perfectionism sent me on an incessant and endless chase of the unattainable. I jumped off that treadmill. I’m not recovered, but recovering. 

I still set goals, but they are more attainable these days. I’m more likely to say “no” to people than I was a decade ago. I see the value in failure and the lessons it teaches. I’m becoming fine with not being able to please everybody all the time. Rejection from people will happen; so does acceptance from God. I’ll most likely never take a casual approach to quality in my work, but I am learning to accept good enough. 

So Christmas is getting close. It’s a dangerous time for us perfectionists. The cards. The cookies. The family schedule. The parties. The presents. The lights. The traveling. Getting the house ready. Sometimes I wonder if the tasks become more important than the people. Or if the quest for the perfect Christmas becomes more important than a quest for the perfect Christ.

Cards that don’t get sent on time. A house that is a little messy. Cookies that are a little burned. A missed party. It happens. You are human. A human who is loved by a perfect God who gives Himself for you and to you daily.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

In your sermon, I liked the distinction you drew between excellence and perfectionism. I gradually learned this as a teacher. If you praise kids for being so smart and doing things perfectly, they are going to be afraid to take chances to try new thigns for fear they will "fail."