Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist

As a recovering perfectionist, I sometimes confuse holiness and perfection. Rather than try to reflect on God’s grace or allow its natural compelling work in my life (holiness), I try really hard to do godly things, produce spiritual fruit, and live a neatly tied-up life (perfection).

Sometimes I do this because I believe God can’t love me without my efforts, but most of the time I do this because I am trying to fulfill some arbitrary Christian standard that I think others expect of me or that I expect of myself. I feel like a walk-in freezer forever attempting to keep myself at a constant, controlled temperature.

I grow weary of myself, of maintaining my frozen image.

Sometimes, to thaw out, I practice letting people see me in various states of disarray. When a friend is dropping off her children to play, I purposely do not change out of my bright-red, extra-large moose pajama pants and do not fix my hair or makeup.

I practice asking for help, even when I can likely do it on my own and even though I must ignore the feelings of guilt over being such a burden to everyone.

I practice telling my friends the sorry state of my heart — how I envy, how I don't trust God sometimes, how I am restless, and how I grow discontent.

I practice letting people see my house in various states of disarray, because that somehow feels even more intimate than showing them my heart or letting them see me in my red moose pajamas.

I practice not cleaning the ring from the toilet bowl and not fussing over an elaborate meal when friends are coming over. And then I practice leaving the garage door up so they will walk through the jumble of bikes and coats and backpacks and leaves blown in rather than climbing the stairs to my beautifully arranged porch.

I practice not hiding from other moms the Cheetos and the juice boxes I allow my children to ingest.

I practice letting my children draw all over the windows with window markers (and then I practice not immediately digging under the sink for the Windex when they run upstairs to play).

I am not always prepared for people to see me or my home in disarray, but I am secretly glad when they do. Like when one of the other pastors at our church showed up one morning last week at the kitchen door as I was doing dishes in my red moose pajama pants and previous day’s makeup. (My husband had forgotten to tell me he was coming.) I was a smeared, moosey mess and so was the kitchen, but instead of running to hide in my room, I said hello and returned to the dishes with a smile. Good, I thought to myself. I'm getting better. I'm thawing.

I’m practicing the thawing, too — the not worrying when others see my disarray on accident, even when I am not controlling what disarray they see.

In thawing, I find myself in a state of gratefulness. Less of my time is spent corralling life and more of it is spent seeing, listening, and relating. There is less coldness and looking inward, more warmth and seeing outward. Less trying to impress and more enjoying the life and people I love.

Sometimes I am not good at gratefulness. Sometimes I don’t let God’s grace flood my heart because it reminds me that I actually need it, and that I can’t do it all. Sometimes I care more about the state of my home than the state of my heart.

But I'm practicing.