Thursday, August 29, 2013

the problem with perfection

Confession: I'm a perfectionist.

This is not a shocking statement to anyone who knows me.

My house is always clean.  Scratch that.  Not always clean per se but always picked up and ready for a visitor at a moments notice. Everything in my home has it's place. It's organized and free of clutter. 

My email inbox is at zero. At least, that's my goal every day. My inbox serves as my to do list: emails to respond to, calls to make, tasks to complete. If it's done it's filed away virtually as reference. 

My calender is precise. It's color-coded by family member, complete with email or pop up message reminders so I don't miss the teacher's birthday, work meeting, or coffee with a friend. It's electronic so I have it on hand on my phone and computer and shared with J so we know what the other is up to.

My multi-tasking skills are superb. Not a day goes by that I'm not doing a load of laundry between emails. Or driving and listening to a podcast. Or talking on the phone and wiping the counter tops.

Are there benefits to being a perfectionist? Undoubtedly. I can find things when I need them, I get a ton accomplished throughout the day, and people can count on my word. Our home truly serves as a refuge where we can come and relax rather than feel overwhelmed with stuff to be done. 

But before you start secretly hating me, my perfectionism has come with a price. I've started to see the gaps in my heart that my attempts at perfection is trying to fill. At my core I feel a need to fix the brokenness around me in an attempt to feel right and make everything ok.


I often use David Pawlison's X-Ray Questions for much needed heart checks. These questions serve as a helpful way to identify my true motivations and expose idols in my heart (things like control, power, approval, and comfort).

Questions like:

What do you want, desire, crave, lust, and wish for? What desires do you serve and obey?
What do you seek, aim for, and pursue?
Where do you bank your hopes?
What are your plans, agendas, strategies, and intentions designed to accomplish?
Where do you find refuge, safety, comfort, escape, pleasure, security?

What's really going on in my heart is an idol of control. There's something crazy that goes on inside me when I don't feel ok until all the dishes are done, all the laundry is folded, and all the toys are picked up. When I can't rest until all the emails are answered and I feel a sense of accomplishment at the checks on my to do list for the day. There is something hugely satisfying and comforting in getting things done for me. 

But this satisfaction is short-lived, never enough, and fools me into thinking this is what matters. I tell myself I have it together when my house is clean, my kids pick up their Legos, and life is good when I've completed the to do list for the day.

It's all lies. 

Here's the truth: I have it together and life is good because Jesus has already done the work. The work that really matters of saving my soul and the promise that he will ultimately redeem and restore everything that is broken. (How's that for checking off a to do list?)

When I lean into this truth, I'll know that none of my striving perfectionism will ever lead to happiness. That there's nothing I can do that's truly worthwhile and of eternal significance unless I join him in his work.

Is my hope in my Savior or in my track record?

Is my pride in having it all together or in Christ's finished work on the cross on my behalf?

Do I need a clean house or do I need a Rescuer?


My soul satisfaction will never be filled with my perfectionism. It can only be filled by His.

1 comment:

  1. Amen and amen. Though I don't often struggle with the same ideas (all you have to do is walk in my house to see that!!), I do struggle with using other things to fill the holes. Love you friend and love that Jesus is speaking to you even in the non-choas! ;) ;)

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