Confession time: I've struggled with perfectionism for as long as I can remember. As a natural overachiever, I've always leaned toward expecting myself to be perfect.
But that's not possible. It's never going to happen.
Why do we place so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect? To have the perfect life plan after college? To always be perfectly in control of our emotions? To have perfect relationships? To love perfectly? To create the perfect life in general?
We can't work toward perfection. It'll just cause anxiety. We all want to be more than we are, but God's intent for humans was renounced in the Garden. When sin entered the world, perfection left the world. Sin and perfection can't exist together.
Perfection is impossible for us in this fallen world, yet God commands it in Matthew 5:48: "Therefore, you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Perfection isn't an attainable goal for us on our own. That's the point. God wants us to rely on Him to be made perfect. Think of the consequences of trying to be perfect on our own: we get anxious when we fail, we end up having a negative view of ourselves because we keep failing, we promise ourselves we'll do better, then the cycle starts over when we fail for the umpteenth time. Instead of relying on God to work in our lives, we rely on ourselves to change our own lives, which could never work. Striving for perfection on our own is like believing that perfection is possible without God. The truth is, we have to continually be turning to Christ to work in our lives so that we can be molded into who He wants us to be. And when we fail, grace meets us where we at.
I'd much rather live knowing I don't have to be perfect because God sent His perfect Son to take my sin, than live a life trying to attain perfection on my own. God commands perfection, but extends grace to us because we can never achieve it in this fallen world.
In Philippians 3:12, Paul writes "Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus." Like Paul, we must press on. We can't achieve perfection, but we can trust that God's grace never fails. We are to be like Christ, but God gives us remarkable grace in pursuit of this command.
I've gotten much better in my struggle with perfection. But certainly not because I've gotten anywhere remotely close to reaching it. There are days I fail at loving, fail at nurturing relationships, crumble at the idea of thinking about having a life plan figured out, and completely bomb controlling my emotions. I'm not perfect. It's freeing to know that God's grace covers all of my imperfections.
2 Corinthians 12:9 is a comfort to me tonight: "And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."