Hi, everyone, my name is Therese.
And I’m a recovering perfectionist.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a mess. I don’t have it all together. I like to appear like I do, but I don’t. I can’t seem to do the things I want to do, I do what I don’t want to do, I’m insecure, I’m at constant war with myself…you get the idea.
Being a perfectionist doesn’t mesh with being human very well.
And fact is, you’re like that too. Some of us struggle more than others, but underneath the bundle of flesh and bones, there’s a soul inside that’s scarred and wounded.
It’s ugly. But it’s also beautiful.
“I see their ugly and their beauty and wonder how the same thing can be both.”
These words come from one of my favorite books, The Book Thief. I’ve been reflecting on my battle with perfectionism over the past year, and I’ve been especially struck by the paradox that is humankind.
Here’s what I mean.
I’m an artist, so I like to draw things sometimes. Faces are hands-down the most fascinating and challenging subject. Finding the full range of emotions captured in their eyes, their wrinkles…everything that makes up their beauty and their imperfections, I love drawing all of it. It’s what makes them who they are. It’s their character.
It hit me: when I look at people, I look at them with the eyes of an artist. I see their whole person, the beautiful and the ugly. The human form, as well as the impression I get of their soul. I see all of it, and I’m left in awe — God wasn’t kidding when He said mankind is the crown of creation. In all of our complexity, we are beautiful creatures.
So why can’t I look at myself the way I look at others as an artist? With eyes of curious delight in everything that makes them human, both the good and the bad. Why can’t I look at my soul the way the Divine Artist does — with sheer joy at His creation, loving her in spite of, and even because of, her weaknesses?
That’s what true humility is, actually. It’s the ability to see God for who He is, others for what they are, and ourselves the way God sees us. He recognizes the good. He also sees the not so good, but He sees a soul He redeemed, a victory over a heart that has been claimed by Him.
He sees us the way a parent looks at their child. If the child falls all the time, does the parent get upset with it? No. It’s a child.
Same with us. The fact is, I’m human. And it’s messy and ugly sometimes, and it’s also wonderful and bright. And the paradox is that sometimes the things that are ugly and the things that are beautiful are the same things.
And peace within ourselves is achieved when we embrace that fact.
This doesn’t just apply to our souls. This also applies to our relationships. (And events, too.) For example, the times where my friends and I let go of the idea that we had to have it all together with each other, and were real about what we were actually going through (aka we were all struggling), are the times that we actually became real friends. It was in the darkest struggles that intimacy formed between us.
The same has been true between God and me. When I let down my walls in prayer and actually tell God how I’m doing (which is sometimes, “I’m not okay”), that’s where the relationship with Him deepens.
Being vulnerable with ourselves, with God, with others — casting off perfectionism, recognizing the fact that we’re a mess and that it’s okay is scary and feels a lot like being naked. (Most people think that’s uncomfortable.)
But God lowered Himself to our level. He went through all the same emotions, struggles, wounds. He gets it.
To prove my point, STORY TIME.
In prayer once, I imagined myself in a field of wheat and weeds. It was my soul, filled with good wheat and with bad weeds. I knew Jesus was coming to visit me, so I frantically began pulling out the weeds to get myself ready for Him.
I pulled and pulled. My knuckles turned white. I broke into a sweat.
I was pulling and pulling, and it wasn’t enough. I was becoming exhausted.
Jesus arrived and walked toward me slowly. I noticed that He walked through the weeds, as if on purpose. He put His hand through them, as if caressing the weeds.
I was a little confused, but I kept pulling frantically.
Finally, He made it to me and sat down next to me.
“What are you doing?” He asked gently.
Out of breath, I could barely speak.
I began to sob. He took me in His arms and just held me.
“Jesus…” I said. “Look at all my wounds.”
He paused and looked into my eyes.
“I know. Look at all of Mine.”
And for the first time since He arrived, I actually looked at Him. He was covered with wounds. Wounds that He was bearing for me, on my behalf. He was hurting so badly, but here He was, comforting me and looking into my eyes with pure love.
All He wanted to do was be wounded with me.
So moral of the story, be real. With yourself, with God and with others. You’re a mess and it’s okay. Of course this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to become better at the things you struggle with, but be okay with not getting there right away.
Here’s a toast for trying our hardest and it not being enough.
And not being enough is enough for God. So it should be for you, too.