What Can Make You Lose Every Time

I watched as this college friend pulled clothes from her suitcase and packed them into a duffel bag for the Thanksgiving weekend at home.

She still had an empty dresser and a full suitcase 3/4 of the way through the college semester.

I am not like this.  I am an insta-unpacker.  The moment I arrive at a hotel, I nest.  I empty every bag, tuck every item away, fill the mini-kitchen and set up the bathroom sink.

When we return home, I’m going to unpack no matter how late it is.  I’m going to start that load of laundry and pull out the toiletries because it cannot wait until morning, not if I want to get any sleep.

Maybe I looked lost in confusion as I watched my friend move clothes from one bag to another because she stopped to explain it to me.psalm16-11

It wasn’t procrastination or laziness.

It was perfectionism.  It was that ugly enemy that paralyzes us with the lie:  If you can’t do it perfectly, then why do it at all?

“I was so busy,” she said, “I knew I didn’t have time to put my clothes away just right, so I left them in the suitcase.”

Beth Moore wrote:

Perfectionists always lose (Esther).

It’s the same way my son chose to crawl rather than walk for weeks and weeks.  People asked me, “Can he walk yet?”

Yes, he could walk.

Did he always choose to walk?

No.  It amused him to walk a little from room to room or place to place.  But when he wanted to get somewhere with certainty and with speed, he dropped to all fours and crawled like a rocket.

Perfectionism does this; it paralyzes us into this one place of development.  We’re comfortable here.  We move along well enough.  This is what we know.

Why choose stumbling?  Why choose uncertain steps and potential embarrassment?

This is what we lose when we demand perfection from ourselves:  We lose the journey of grace, the way God walks alongside, the way He steadies us with His strong hand and smiles at our progress.  The way He cheers us along and encourages us on the weary days to persevere and not give up, to get up and try once more because He is with us, after all.

Jesus said these words to His disciples and it could have broken over their weary souls like the cracking of a whip, so they felt trampled and beaten and hopeless:

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48 ESV).

Be…..perfect?

It’s tucked in just one tiny verse after the beatitudes and after Jesus tells them not to retaliate against their enemies, not to get divorced, not to lust, not to sin when they’re angry, and to love their enemies.

Yes, do all this.  And be perfect.

That would have caused me some religious whiplash.  If I were taking sermon notes on that hillside, I’d have written it down on my bulletin with exclamation marks and references to look up later in case the preacher was wrong.

Hadn’t the Pharisees preached legalism and works-based faith?  The religious elite told them to be perfect, be perfect, be perfect and if possible, be more perfect, because that’s what it took to please God.

Here I am at the end of my 12-month pursuit of the presence of Christ, and I’m ending the year with this: Abandon Perfection.

But how do you move on past a verse like this?

Be perfect?  That’s impossible.  I’m a mess some days, broken and faulty and prone to sin.

So, Jesus, does that mean we’re hopelessly blocked from Your presence and Your favor because this perfection just trips us all up?

Oh, but here’s the grace we perfectionists need.

Ravi Zacharias writes:

Perfection, then, is not a change in the essential character but the completion of a course...We can never be who God is, but we can complete the task he assigns us to do” (The Grand Weaver).

Jesus didn’t mean we had to attain that holiness on our own or get everything right and never falter or sin.  He knows we can’t.

He asks us, though, to move forward.  Take those steps.  Make progress.  Obey Him.

When He tells us to move, move.  When He plants us, bloom.  When He leads us, follow.  When He prompts us, go.  When He nudges us, yield.

Perfectionists lose because we get so focused on the end that we despair in the middle and simply give up.  Or we never begin in the first place.

But God asks us to just take a walk with Him, rest in His presence, trust His direction, enjoy His company.  Then we’ll be where He wants us to be, with Him….and that’ll be perfect.

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me this month as I Abandon Perfection?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

Quiet Time With a Mop and a Bucket, Lesson 2

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”
Philippians 1:6

For Lesson 1: You Are Not the Only One, click here

Lesson 2: There’s Always More to Do

Hours after I toted all of the cleaning bottles and paraphernalia to the back of the house, I had now systematically worked through each room, accomplishing the “Big Clean.”  Not the everyday wipe-down.  Not the daily decluttering.  The kind of clean you build up to over time, where you flip  over sofa cushions and apply toothbrush to grout.

I emptied the bucket of soapy water, hung up my dish rag, placed the broom in the closet and sat down to write.  I was finished cleaning.  The house was spotless.

Except.

Except for the fact that as I sat at the kitchen table, I now saw the clear handprints left by my daughters on the window next to me.  I just washed that window two days ago.  Now there were handprints.  Up I hopped, grabbed the Windex and a paper towel.  Spritzed.  Wiped down.  Put cleaning supplies away.  Sitting down again, I thought, “yes, now I am truly done.”

Except.

Except now I could clearly see a splotch on one wall that I must have missed earlier.  No problem.  One quick wipe-down and I am done.

Except . . .

The reality of cleaning is that there will always be more mess, if not now than later.

And so it is with us.  We allow God to clean us out, scrubbing out the hidden corners of sin, bad attitudes and rotten motives.  We are purified, refined, and made new.  Yet, no matter how far we have progressed on this road to Christ-likeness, we will not attain perfection on this planet.   “We know that when Christ appears,we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2b).  But, until Christ appears, we’re not going to be His perfect likeness and we’re going to have more messes to clean up.

We could take that as permission to stop cleaning all together.  Why make the bed, if you’ll sleep it in that night?  Why wash the dishes if they are just going to be dirtied again?  Why keep trying to be more like Christ when I can’t possibly be perfect?

And yet, Paul wrote:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

In her book One in a Million, Priscilla Shirer writes, “You might be in the oasis of complacency if you’ve started thinking you’ve arrived and that nothing more is really required of you at this point in life.  You’ve basically stopped hungering for anything new, concluding that your present experience with God is probably as good as it’s going to get.”

Sometimes the most dangerous place for a Christian to be is immediately following a “Big Clean.”  We feel excited about the work God has done in us, the place He’s brought us to, the revolutionary way He has stirred up our hearts.  Then we begin to think we’ve made it.  We’re so close to God right now; there just couldn’t be anything closer.  We’re so much farther than where we were before, so taking  a moment to enjoy the new and improved location seems like a good idea.  Then we settle in and stop moving forward.

It’s just like the two-and-a-half tribes of Israel that chose to settle down east of the Jordan river rather than taking the land God promised them in Canaan.  They stopped just short of God’s fullest blessing.  They settled for less all because they thought what they had was good enough.

But, I want God’s very best for me, the fullness of His plan, even if that means moving out of what is comfortable, even if that means letting the Holy Spirit take a mop and bucket to my heart day after day.

The solution for continual mess isn’t hopelessly shrugging our shoulders about sin or complacently allowing Satan to clutter our lives with trash and dirt.  Instead, we clean and clean and clean, everyday scrubbing out the fingerprints of Satan and our flesh and the world.  We Windex the windows of our hearts so that Christ can shine through us.  And we do it day after day after day until Christ whisks us away to the glory of heaven and the spotless purity of His presence, because even though we can’t be perfect this side of heaven, the progress we make on this journey, the miraculously transformative work that God does in us, points others to Christ.  Others look at us and see God’s handiwork, testimony that the grace that is at work in us can be at work in them, too.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King