A Prayer for the Perfectionist

Hi, my name is Bethany, and I am a recovering perfectionist.

I love when everything in my life works out perfectly as I intended. I love it when my house, my marriage, my work, my social life, everything is perfect order because it’s safe. It’s easy.

And perfection thrives routine. I love having everything lined up in my planner and knowing what to expect when. I love when to-do lists and events fit nicely in my schedule. And I love knowing that every day will go perfectly according to my plan. I love routine.

I’ve found that being a “perfect” Christian is easy during routine. Bible study and prayer fit right into a routine. Church falls into schedule, and I start looking around and thinking I finally have this thing down.

It’s when I feel safe in the security of my own routine and perfection that God turns my life upside down.

The past month has been one of those times. Transitioning from one phase of life to another is never easy: high school to college; single life to marriage, student life to working life. And the latter is where I am right now.

I’m going to be honest. This past month has been rough. I have never felt so exhausted, defeated, and worthless. It’s been hard adjusting from graduate school to a full-time job. I worked all the way through college, so I assumed a full-time job would just be more of the same (plus no homework). Sounds easy right? An even better routine with free evenings! Time to start all those perfect DIY projects I’ve been waiting to do.

I was in for a rude awakening. After a tired first week, I assumed it would just take a couple weeks for me to acclimate to the new setting and develop a new perfect routine. One week of weariness turned into two. Two weeks turned into a month, and I thought I would never have that perfect routine again.

My house was a mess; we were eating dinner late at night because I forgot to thaw the meat or turn on the crockpot. My pants were fitting snugger cause I was too tired when I got home to exercise (and too tired to wake up at 5a.m.). My precious free evenings were quickly eaten up by other responsibilities and events, pulling me away from spending time with my husband. My discipline of Bible study and prayer fell by the wayside in absence of my controlled schedule.

My job (which, by the way, I love) was chaotic. As one of only two communications people for a small university, I was being asked to do things that I had never done before, things that I hadn’t learned in school. Projects kept piling on, and I felt uncertain about the value of myself and my work. I didn’t know if I was doing a good enough job, and I hated leaving piles of work unfinished on my desk every day. I felt like I would never get my bearings. Then the Holy Spirit hit me like a ton of bricks.

God never intended my life to be perfect.

Yes, we are called to be perfect (Matthew 5:48) and holy (1 Peter 1:16), but holiness doesn’t mean always having dinner on the table by 6. It doesn’t mean crossing off everything on your to-do list at the end of the day. It doesn’t mean exercising every morning. It doesn’t mean meeting every deadline at work. It doesn’t even mean never missing a quiet time.

It means surrendering yourself to the finished, perfect work of Christ. It means finding your value in Christ’s perfection, not your own. It means serving God and others out of freedom instead of fear.

Because, ultimately, I was making myself weary trying to be perfect, trying to win the approval of God, my husband, my boss, and other people. I was pressuring myself to have it all together, the perfect house, job, life; when Christianity is about surrounding your imperfections to the cross.

In reality, my husband didn’t think I was a failure for feeding him dinner at 9:00 (he was just grateful he didn’t have to cook). My boss didn’t think I was a failure (hence why she kept entrusting me with more projects). And God never looked down on me in my feeble attempts to get myself together and think, “She’ll never be enough.”

No, God rejoices over me, as I am covered by the blood-washed perfection of His Son.

This realization brought me to tears. By the sweet graciousness of God, the weariness left. I felt the burden I had been carrying for over a month lift. I finally had let go of a task that was never intended to be mine in the first place.

Now, my house still needs to be vacuumed. I have deadlines piling up at work. I have responsibilities that I need to attend to. I have spiritual disciplines that need to be developed. But I can do all these things knowing that my value doesn’t lie in my imperfect works, it lies in Christ’s perfect work. And that gives me energy in a stress-filled season. It gives me hope in chaos. It gives me security that no planner or schedule could ever provide.

If you are a struggling perfectionist like me, I pray that you would find freedom and joy in the perfection of Christ. This truth doesn’t make me work less hard. It doesn’t take away my desire to please Him. But it frees me to pursue true holiness knowing my Father will always welcome me, no matter how imperfect I am. And it makes me long for the day when I am made fully perfect, not by my own doing, but by the perfect sacrifice of my Savior.

Hebrews 10:14, “For by a single offering, he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”

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