A Failing Perfectionist

I wouldn’t call myself a total perfectionist, but when it comes to certain things in life, I definitely strive to be pretty close to perfect. Namely, in academics.

I feel like I’ve relaxed a bit since coming to college, but that’s not to say that my tendencies from high school to stress over even the tiniest of details of a homework assignment and to be upset if I don’t get an A in a class are gone completely. Honestly, this perfectionism makes my life so much more stressful, and I’m full of worries about what’s to come and if I prepared well enough for it.

In short, I’m a mess.

I’m a mess because no matter how much I want to be perfect in my schoolwork, I cannot. 

Let me repeat that again, but generalized. Perfectionists have a tendency to let our unreasonable desire to be perfect cause us unnecessary stress because no matter how much we strive to be perfect, we will inevitably fall short. 

That goes for those like me who want to be perfect in their schoolwork, to those who want to be the perfect role model (also me), to those who want to be the best at their job, to those who want to be perfect in just about everything they do.

Here’s the deal, we’re not perfect beings. Romans 3:23 tells us that “everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (NLT). As unpleasant as that may sound, that’s fact. We’re sinning, imperfect beings who can never be perfect on our own.

But for all you perfectionists out there, there is hope. The Gospel says that Jesus came down to earth and died for our sins, that we may have eternal life with him if we believe. He has sent the Holy Spirit to us to start creating us believers anew.

The Holy Spirit is making us perfect. 

Isn’t that awesome?!

We can never hope to achieve perfection on our own, but if we rely on the Holy Spirit and let Him lead us and shape us and mold us, we will slowly but surely become more like our perfect Father in heaven. And once we get to heaven, we will be perfect and without sin.

So, all that to say, perfectionism in and of itself, I believe, is not an entirely bad desire to have.

After all, it can point to our creation. Genesis 1 says that everything God created was “good.” God is perfect, and He made man in His image, meaning that man started off as perfect. It was only when sin entered the world that we were made imperfect.

Secondly, if we didn’t have a desire to be better or a desire to be perfect, why would we need the Holy Spirit? The very basis of Christianity is this: We are imperfect sinners, and we realize this, but Jesus Christ has covered the cost and through the Holy Spirit we will be made more and more like Him through this lifetime.

Christianity is all about imperfect beings being restored to perfection by our perfect Creator. 

Now, that’s certainly just one take at the Gospel, and there are many other aspects to it, but I say that to illustrate the point that perfectionism, defined as a desire to constantly be better and do better, in and of itself isn’t bad. It is only when we look to ourselves to be perfect that we falter. Only God can make us perfect.

So don’t shun your perfectionist tendencies completely, just turn them over to the God who is perfect. Instead of relying on yourself to become perfect, rely on God. That’s the only way our efforts will not be in vain.

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Loving The Others

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

Matthew 22:36-39 (NLT)

For most Christians, it’s pretty obvious that we’re supposed to be loving others. We all know it; we all agree with it; we’ll all shout it from the rooftops. But do we live it? 

It’s one thing to love our friends, our family, our poor neighbor who just needs a bit of help since her husband just died. In short, it’s easy (comparatively) to love those who are similar to us. To love those whom we like. 

But it seems to be a bit harder to love those who are other. 

I am heartbroken by the news I’ve been hearing recently and the upsurge in hate towards people of a different ethnicity and/or religion. Specifically (though they aren’t the only group to experience hate in America and elsewhere), Arab Americans and Muslims. I name these groups specifically because I began writing this post after hearing about the attack in London near a mosque and the Muslim girl who was abducted and beaten to death in Virginia.

In the wake of these attacks, I saw a young American Muslim girl talk about how she feared going out on the streets in her traditional religious garb. Before, she could expect taunts and odd looks and behavior around her. But now, she’s afraid. 

No one should have to fear for their lives because of the color of their skin, where they’re from, or their religion. No one.

The Problem in America

We live in the United States of America, a nation founded on freedom. Meaning people have freedom to be who they want to be and believe in what they want to believe in. But, in the midst of all this hate, that freedom is being uprooted. Sure, the law says I’m free to worship whichever god I wish, and sure, the law says I can immigrate here from the Middle East. But hate is virtually making the law ineffective.

It doesn’t matter if I’m legally able to be a Christian if the people in my country attack and kill me for being a Christian.

But what does all this mean for Christians?

Because, surely, Christians aren’t the ones perpetuating all of that. Right?

Unfortunately, some Christians are. But those aren’t the ones I’m talking about. I want to focus on the “neutral” Christians, those who would never take part in perpetuating hate, never ever. When asked about it, of course they say it’s awful, that it’s unbiblical, that it’s just plain wrong. But, at the same time, they don’t do anything to stop it.

I’m focusing on this group because it’s the group I find myself falling into, and the line of thinking that propels this group can be sneaky, slimy, and hard to break out of. I know. Because we aren’t doing anything wrong. We aren’t the ones hating on others. We aren’t the ones committing violent acts. It’s not us. It’s not on our shoulders.

Except it is.

Jesus called us to love our neighbors. Are we loving them if we watch as they are beaten, attacked, and killed? Are we loving them if we stand by as their neighborhood places are looted and destroyed?

Further, we were called to make disciples of all the nations and to be a light on hilltop that cannot be hidden. 

Being a light means that we don’t blend into the darkness around us. We stand out. We shine bright for Jesus.

We do that by loving where others hate, by welcoming where others cast out, by acting as Jesus would in a world devoid of His love.

After all, if we wish to share Jesus with everyone to the ends of the earth, and to be effective in doing so, we must first gain their trust. Would you listen to someone who didn’t seem to care about you? Probably not. Therefore, we need to show the others that we care about them.

Isn’t that what Jesus, who invited tax collectors and sinners to eat with him, would do?

Let’s Talk About Jesus

No, really, let’s talk about Jesus. Let’s talk about Jesus to our friends, family members, acquaintances. Let’s talk about Jesus in our day-to-day lives.

Y’all, I’m a very shy person. Meeting new people makes me nervous, I’m awkward, and I’m no good at starting conversations with anyone but my closest friends no matter how hard I try.

I often use this as an excuse to not talk about Jesus with those I care about in my life. But that’s not okay.

Right before I started writing this post, I read a Facebook post from a friend talking about sharing the Gospel. She talked about stepping out of our comfort zones to strike up real, spiritual conversations. It got me thinking.

Naturally, I started to (in my head) go on the defensive. I do share the Gospel, just not in the way she’s talking about. I have this blog, don’t I? I’m using the writing gift God has given me to spread His Good News. Isn’t that enough?

But, woah, I’m going to stop myself right there. When it comes to sharing the Gospel and talking about Jesus, it’s never just “enough.” 

Jesus is the Light of the World. He’s our Savior, our Rock, our Redeemer. Without Him, there is no hope. Without Him, we are doomed to an eternity separated from God.

We can never settle for talking about Him just “enough.”

Jesus commanded us to “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19 NLT). That command is pretty clear. And I don’t think it means we should draw a line at when we’ve shared the Gospel “enough.” It doesn’t mean that we can talk ourselves out of doing anything but sharing the Gospel whole-heartedly and unashamedly.

See, it was a dangerous line of thinking I was falling into when I was using my blog to justify not sharing the Gospel in my day-to-day conversations. I was settling for something less than what I was fully capable of because of fear.

And we should never settle when it comes to God. He deserves nothing but our very best. He deserves nothing but our everything. After all, we do owe Him our lives.

Further, if we fully understand the weight of the Gospel, and we really love others as Christ called us to love, how can we let fear–or anything else–keep us from sharing the joy of Jesus with them?

That goes for acquaintances and random people we meet as well as for our closest friends and family members.

I understand as much as the next girl that it can be incredibly difficult to talk about Jesus with those we’re close to. For some reason, it’s easier to share with complete strangers than with those we love the most. Maybe it’s because we don’t have to live with complete strangers and fret over how they might judge us.

But, again, that’s fear talking.

If these people are really those we love the most, we should be even more willing and more adamant about sharing the Gospel with them.

After all, it is a life-and-death situation. 

I think one of the reasons it can be so easy for us to brush off talking about Jesus is because we are forgetting the stakes. The Bible tells us that the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ. That’s it.

If our friends, family members, classmates, and coworkers don’t realize that, then they’re walking a dangerous path. How can we stand by and let them continue down that path without even trying to show them the right path?

If we saw a person walking out into the middle of a busy highway would we stop them and point them to safety, or would we let them continue? 

But I’m not capable of pointing anyone in the right direction on my own. I think I’ve made that abundantly clear to myself in the way I let fear control me and the way I convince myself that I don’t have the right words to say what needs to be said.

But good news: Jesus doesn’t expect us to do it alone. He is the Savior. 

We can’t save anyone. Only Jesus can save. 

Jesus simply expects us to set our eyes on Him and let the Holy Spirit guide us. He will give us the words to say what we need to say, just like He equipped Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. From there, we simply need to let the Holy Spirit work.

I know that it isn’t necessarily “simple” like I made it out to be. But the Bible never said the Christian life would be easy. Rewarding, yes. Fulfilling, yes. But definitely not easy.

That’s why we need to keep turning back to Jesus whenever we mess up and experience His grace. We are warriors for a heavenly King.