Sunday, March 15, 2009

Little Miss Perfect

I am at a women's retreat this weekend. If you've never attended one of these, you may be imagining a bunch of old women sitting around a table, praying for hours. You couldn't be more wrong!

This is my sixth year - in a row - attending a women's retreat. I expect to continue to do so, on an annual basis, for the rest of my years. I come to these weekends with a few expectations in mind: I expect to stay up too late giggling with girlfriends; I expect to fellowship deeply with other Christian women; I expect to be given the opportunity to minister to other women; and I expect (and highly anticipate) the fantastic food NOT prepared by me! My greatest expectation, though, is that God will show up. And He never disappoints me!

I was sharing with a girlfriend about my struggle with weight loss. I was talking about how difficult it is to stick to a program... I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist. I want to do everything completely and perfectly. If it's exercise, I need to do it every day for an hour. When I miss a day, or peter out at half an hour, I mentally toss my hands in the air and think, "why bother?" If it's eating, I need to eat healthy all day and all week. When I catch myself caving in to temptation and popping a Milk Dud in my mouth, my immediate thought is, "well, I've screwed it up now, may as well throw in the towel and eat the whole box." I am not willing to settle for anything less than absolute success - perfection.

My friend and I had a mutual giggle at our "eldest child" personalities and moved on. We pretty much accepted that this is just the way we are, it's both annoying and funny. The end.

God, though, He won't settle for that excuse! "Just the way you are?" Nuh-uh.

We sat down in the teaching session a couple hours later - our topic is truth, what is the truth? Our speaker, Cynthia Cavanaugh, says, "God doesn't expect perfection, He just expects us to be faithful." She proceeded to say it again (you know the way speakers will do that with important points, so we really hear). I was listening and nodding, but not really listening with my heart. Then that girlfriend caught my eye, and I realized that God had just spoken.

God does not expect perfection from me.

Why in the world would I walk around in this life, then, expecting something from myself that He has never asked?

I do not need to be perfect. I just need to be faithful.

My mind flooded with memories of how God has been trying to give me this message over the past week - other women telling me to just try doing one little thing at a time (like choosing an apple for my afternoon snack rather than potato chips), my husband encouraging me to just do those little things that are easy to do (like grabbing 10 minutes of exercise here or there), other women sharing with me how they have been fighting through their own perfectionist tendencies. They just kept coming!

It is such a simple truth that I nearly missed it. In this life, perfection will not bring victory over my struggles. Faithfulness is the only thing that God has called me to. If I am faithful to Him - in how I treat my physical body, in the little changes He asks me to make to avoid anger, in how I respect and honour my husband, in how I relate to others, in how I spend time with my children - He will make change. I don't have to revolutionize myself. I don't have to dive right into "Extreme Makeover: Physical, Spiritual, Emotional, ahem Perfectionist Addition." In fact, I don't have to change my bad habits and junk at all! I simply have to do what He tells me to do.

You might be tempted, as I was, to overlook this truth. It's so simple that we all KNOW it. But just take a moment to ponder it... Our God does not expect perfection from us. Is there something in your life that you've been wrestling with? Some habit you've been trying to kick? Some heart attitudes you keep attempting to change? Anger? Panic? Lying? Smoking? Weight loss? Saving your marriage? Are you like me - you try and try to do it all, and when you fall short of the perfect standard of complete transformation you say, "I screwed it up now anyway, may as well just stop trying."? That, my friend, is a lie from the pit of hell, designed to keep us from the victory Christ promises us.

God does not call you to be flawless. He simply asks that you be faithful. Why are you asking more of yourself than God asks of you? Imagine how freeing it will be to stop holding yourself up to a standard that you do not need to achieve! Frankly, I am breathing a big sigh of relief.


  1. is very helpful with the practical side of perfectionism. You might have to wade through the humanistic parts, but the practical "how to" is extremely helpful.

  2. Great post! I'm an all-or-nothing dieter too. After being completely convinced that my issues with weight and making healthy choices are a stronghold that Satan has on me, I've been working on this with the mentality that I just have to be obedient to Christ ONE decision at a time! That's what this whole "diet" and healthy lifestyle thing choice after another. Thanks for sharing and I'm so glad you got to enjoy your ladies retreat! :)

  3. I have struggled with this too. My struggle spilled over into not being able to believe that God could really love me or be happy with me unless I pulled it together. Throughout last year, He made a point to let me know His love has nothing to do with my 'doing' but with what Jesus did on the cross. What freedom! My obedience and 'doing' is now simply out of my love for Him not because I want Him to love or accept me. It's a great thing!

  4. Wish I could have been there again this year...maybe next year. What are you doing, blogging at 7:00 am at a retreat...After all the excitement, emotions, blessings, etc. I would far too exhausted at that time. Our retreat starts on Saturday, and we are anticipating great touches from God, who loves our imperfect selves, and who has a plan for our lives...Jer. 29:11

  5. These could have been my VERY OWN words - exactly! Right now the struggle is food and yelling (both from my desire to control things in life and strive for perfection instead of submit more to the Lord).
    Are you sure you aren't my twin?? :-) LOL!
    Thanks for putting in words that which I couldn't.....

  6. Andrea - we are definitely twins. Food and yelling, yelling and food. Want to know what I did all day - ate junk and yelled. Must get more sleep...

    Auntie Lucille - If I wasn't up by 7am I would have been woken by others. Being woken up by other people makes me cranky, so I've resolved to wake up before all the other people. It was good, you were missed (and we even had earplugs in our gift bags this year). :)

    Jenny and Hope - thanks for the encouragement girls. Nothing feels better than knowing I'm not in this alone.


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