I grew up a perfectionist, trying to earn love and attention with good grades, good behavior, good everything. I tried my hardest, but I was never good enough. That is the battle I have fought all my life: trying so hard, yet never good enough. Facing my weaknesses and imperfection hurt, enough so that it transferred into hurting myself, these scars on my wrist now reminders of the overflowing hurt of not reaching the unspoken standards I set for myself. The thing about reaching for perfection, is that the journey will never stop.
The journey towards perfection on worldly standards, towards our accomplishments shining bright over everything else — is what slowly brings our souls down to despair and the destruction of hell.
I read these words by Oswald Chambers the other day, the meaning of the words heavy on my heart that competes with the Pharisees and the Sadducees even on the best of days.
He writes, “Practical work may be a competitor against abandonment to God, because practical work is based on this argument – “Remember how useful you are here,” or – “Think how much value you would be in that particular type of work.” That attitude does not put Jesus Christ as the Guide as to where we should go, but our judgment as to where we are of most use. Never consider whether you are of use; but ever consider that you are not your own but His.“
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)
It has taken me years to learn how to let grace rule in my wild and messy heart. But I am slowly starting to see the radical beauty that is created in us flawed people, when God creates through us these moments of glory.
I keep watching these wonderful, holy people around me and I am seeing this; that we are all incomplete, all of us imperfect in our own ways. I am convinced that this is what makes unity so beautiful, the glorious grace of forgiveness shining through our offerings and sacrifices to the Lord. To come together with our flaws and failures, letting go of the standard of perfection and instead choosing the standard of grace — is how we build beautiful people, a beautiful unity between all of us sinners.
I get easily trapped in the swirls of despair at my imperfections, the weight of them lodged deep in my fragile heart and pressing me to give up on trying. It can take weeks, months, even years for us to recognize the hold of the heavy chains on our ankles, our wrists, our hearts as we are bound by the iron of imperfection.
But there is always something greater waiting for us, something greater being created from the broken pieces and the ashes.
“Therefore He brought down their heart with labor;
They fell down, and there was none to help.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
And He saved them out of their distresses.
He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
And broke their chains in pieces.” (Psalm 107:12-14)
So often we hold on to these standards, these measures of perfection creating safety for our fragile hearts, yearning to be loved and accepted. When our eyes are on anything earthly and human, the well of our incompleteness can seem too deep for us to get out of, too deep to climb out into the open air.
But we only need to make the effort to lift our eyes and look to Him, the Maker of our hearts, the Creator of everything beautiful — who holds your heart in His gentle, scarred hands and still whispers the same words that He did the moment He created you: you are wonderfully made; you are His beloved.
I am slowly starting to understand the beauty of this all, of our imperfections giving way to glorious grace. This is grace that is not easy for me on most days, the gentle edges of it becoming painful shards in my hands as I try to extend grace to myself and I wonder, if I will ever truly learn the grace that sees our brokenness as beautiful, our weaknesses as a canvas for glorious miracles. But I know I will try, for this grace is too wonderful not to behold.
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