Can I level with you for a minute? Growing up, as delusional as it may seem, I thought holding myself to a standard of perfection was “Christ-like.” I mean come on, Jesus is perfect and we are called to be imitators of Him, right?
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV
If only I could back up a few years and throw a dictionary at my high school self. I mistranslated for years in my walk with Christ, the keyword that I thought meant “perfection.” Imitator, in fact, is not perfection, instead, it’s, a person who copies the behavior or actions of another. So, where did I get confused?
Maybe it was my environment or simply how I was interpreting scripture. Either way, perfection became a microscope that I soon examined myself under.
Operating Under Perfection
I’d like to make a case for myself, though- sometimes it feels like I’m hardwired for perfection. I like things orderly and systematic, I plan to be spontaneous (okay, maybe I just plan), and if something goes out of line, I’m normally thrown off. I have to work daily on operating outside of perfection.
Living under a standard of perfection, like with anything, cripples you the longer you submit to it. It’s harder to break a habit the more you make it a lifestyle. Perfection tells us that if we mess up, we failed. It holds us under pressure, and instead of creating a diamond, it creates ashes. Perfection, no matter how we slice it, isn’t so perfect when it’s out of Christ’s context. It’s a measuring stick that quickly runs out, and there’s no extension.
Speaking of measuring sticks- do you remember Mary Poppins’ measuring stick? I’ve always thought how awesome it would be to not only carry that MUCH stuff in your bag but to have a measuring stick extending personalized boosts of confidence. Life would be easier…
The reality is that life isn’t “Hannah Ball [or insert your name here] practically perfect in every way.” Instead, mine is somewhere between “inclined to giggle” and “stubborn.”
Perfectionism isn’t a healthy lifestyle, no matter how many times I try to find the word in Ephesians 5:1-2.
Operating Under Grace
As much as I like things orderly, and as often as I wield my “practically perfect” measuring stick, I was forced to face reality at the beginning of the year. Each year I pray the Lord gives me a central focus. This year my words have been “intentional” and “grace.” Intentional is a whole other story, but grace, that’s a piece of a much bigger story.
We might think grace lends to the notion that we can mess up all the time, and have no repercussions because we can pull our “grace card.” It doesn’t work like that. Instead, grace is an extension to live under Christ and His PERFECT love and mercy. It means that if and when we mess up, we look to our Creator and focus back on imitating Him. Grace doesn’t make sense, but it’s the best way to comprehend an imperfect life. It takes a broken, messed up person, and makes them beautiful. It gives purpose to our shame, and it exchanges perfection for excellence. Operating under Christ’s measuring stick replaces, “practically perfect in every way” with “imperfect but saved by grace.”
How can we operate under grace?
The answer to operating under grace isn’t cut and dry. Instead, it’s a slow becoming. Christ is our measuring stick of perfection, and to hold ourselves to a standard anything other than that, will never add up. Mistakes happen, but the biggest mistake we make is not giving ourselves enough grace to live as imitators. We let our worth plummet if something goes array. However, living under Christ’s grace increases our value because we are loved by Abba Father. As weak, fragile, broken and imperfect as we are, He is not.
If you struggle with perfection, you’re not alone. It doesn’t matter age, experience, title or demographic, perfection is a stagnate mind frame that we can refresh with Christ’s grace. It’s scary to let go, I know that first hand, but giving into grace is freeing. This year, personally, I’ve seen my own notion to step out and live more like Him. In His flood of grace, we are washed clean. It’s a call to live more like Him and grow in His strength.
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ James 4:6 NIV