“You’re such a perfectionist!” She didn’t say it in a mean way, but it took me by surprise. Me? A perfectionist? Surely not. I am far from perfect, and I certainly don’t do everything perfectly. I think I mess up far more often than I get it right.
Yet when I took the time to think it through, I saw the truth in her words. She didn’t mean I was perfect. She meant, I think, that I’m overly concerned with what others think. I thought back to the times I’ve ripped out whole pieces of knitting because I noticed a tiny mistake I’d made at the beginning. I also had a tendency to give up if things didn’t go the way I expected them to. I’d rather not do it at all, I thought, if I can’t do it well.
I wasn’t just critical of my performance. My behavior came in for a fair amount of criticism too. I could lose a night’s sleep agonizing over something I said – or something I had failed to do. My need for approval, I realized, formed an integral part of my perfectionism.
Several years ago we bought five acres of land on which to build our new home. It had great potential but cedar trees covered nearly every square foot – crowding out the beautiful oaks. So we hired someone to cut down the cedar. We tried to save as many oaks as we could, but a couple fell within footprint of the house. We had to cut them down. However, all the rest remained. Some looked to be over one hundred years old – majestic oaks that has seen things we could only imagine.
One small oak, in its struggle to reach the sunlight had grown crooked. Compared to the others it didn’t look like much, but I longed to keep it. Something about it spoke to my heart. We gave it sunlight and space to grow. Over the years it has grown taller and fuller, but it has never grown straight.
I love that tree – just the way it is. Perhaps, because it has become a sweet reminder that I don’t have to be perfect. I have a Father who loves me – imperfections and all. Nothing I will ever do can make Him love me less – or love me more. He loves me fully, unconditionally, and He gives me everything I need to grow stronger and more like Jesus. I don’t need to strive to be like everyone else or perform for the approval of others. I just need to be the me He created me to be.
“17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:17-19