BY LAUREN KOSKI
“Live by grace, not perfection,” insists the Hobby Lobby wall decor in my bathroom. What a nice sentiment. It’s a memorial plaque to when I realized perfectionism was crippling my life — before I returned again to the deceptive lover.
Right now there’s a spider web hanging just above the chic sign, it’s paired with a framed fern leaf and a naked nail, where I need to hang one more decoration. Because you must hang wall decor in odd-numbered groups. Even numbers look awkward.
I posted a photo of this wall decor on Instagram once with Paul’s words:
"Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ”
Look at you, Lauren, I thought to myself after looking at my newly decorated wall, walking in the freedom of Christ!
Walk I did, out into my little, sparkly, idealistic world where lipstick doesn’t wear off, my car is always clean, and my mouth puckers to hold back any comments that might give away my true self.
While creating this false ideal seems innocent, “my car is always clean” and “my lipstick never fades” is actually code for “I’m hiding my sin” and, “I need approval."
I’ve always been too much of an Enneagram Type 1 for most people. I’m too safe; too much of a rule follower; an old soul.
Sleepover parties usually morphed into “let’s put eyeliner on Lauren” and other lessons in the ways of my own generation. I got ditched at my homecoming dance. I was laughed at for riding horses.
So when I finally received any sort of genuine affirmation, I sold my soul to it. That eventually came at the price of manipulating every detail around me, keeping up the facade, and losing confidence as a child of the King.
It wasn’t conforming to those around me who were deemed “in”; it was flattening my life, stretching it out wide and thin so as not to disturb anyone around me. It’s basically enough to slide under the radar without anyone noticing my flaws.
Kindreds, we’re succumbing to the lie that grace isn’t enough.
Because God knows the spider web hanging over my Hobby Lobby wall decor will stay there until a friend comes to visit. It bothers me, sure, but I can deal with my own mess until others ask to witness it. That stinking pile of issues at the bottom of our souls, which we either know all too well or are refusing to acknowledge, gets shoved under the bed along with a pile of dirty laundry when guests, or grace, come knocking on the door.
The root of all of this is ourselves. Oh, we are such sneaky ego-feeders. Perfectionism leads us to comparison, which elevates our anxiety and turns us into people-pleasers. People-pleasers slip pretty quickly into God-pleasers which is basically self-righteousness, and that is where our lovely ego likes to camp out.
“I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even
judge myself” (1 Corinthians 4:3).
My, my, wouldn’t it be nice to be like you, Paul?
The worst part is we place the impossible standards of our perfectionism on other people — ask my ex-boyfriend (ouch, yeah, I just admitted that).
"Perfectionism leads us to comparison, which elevates our anxiety and turns us into people-pleasers. People-pleasers slip pretty quickly into God-pleasers which is basically self-righteousness, and that is where our lovely ego likes to camp out."
Perfectionism is unattainable on earth, AND it’s relative, unlike the Truth. The Truth is Christ; the Truth is He is perfecting us for His Kingdom; the Truth is He is the perfect sacrifice for our hidden selves, our hidden sins.
He is the ideal we seek, and yet “ideal” is not at all the word we can associate with Him because it implies a lack of perfection.
“(for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw
near to God” (Hebrews 7:19).
"For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy”
The book of Hebrews is brimming with our favorite word, kindreds. Why? Because Jesus is set as the standard; He is literally perfection compared to all else.
The word for “perfect” here is Teleioo: To add what is yet wanting in order to render a thing full; bring to a close or fulfillment by an event.
We’re aching for attainment — something that will complete us, fulfill us, so we keep stuffing our appearances and the appearance of our personal worlds with what might satisfy. Every muscle in our bodies is taut, stretched out and hardened in our attempt to keep our world in perfect alignment.
A year ago, I read through a horrible, wonderfully enlightening, bane-of-my-existence book called, “You Can Change,” by Tim Chester. It’s meant to be read and studied in a small group, it demands you take a long, hard look at that pile of issues in your heart, and it’s a powerful tool for battling those besetting sins in our lives. It was in this study group that I realized perfectionism was cheating on me, and I was its slave.
Chester asks each member of your group to write out a personal “Change Project.” Here’s what I came up with:
“Releasing my grip on the world by finding full acceptance in Christ, being real with others, graciously allowing them to be real with me, and not allowing my inner being to be swayed by others’ thoughts, words, or actions.”
I suddenly realized what was going on in my heart wasn’t about Jesus and who He says I am. It was about my own pitiful standards, based on the lies fed to me through other people, society, and social media. Lies I gladly devoured.
But Christ renders us full; Christ brings our lives to fulfillment; Christ is the fulfillment of prophecies which promise our eternal perfection. Yes! We will one day be perfect because of His mercy. But He is first asking us to release our grip.
"If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood — and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood — why was there still need for another priest to come?" (Hebrews 7:11a).
If my perfection was attainable through my own works there would be no purpose in Christ's work.
Would we go so far as to say we don't need a savior? Not at all. In our desire for perfection, we focus only on the flaws. Use that weakness as a strength in realizing your need for Jesus, kindred. Then live by His grace, not perfection.