Idolatry of Perfection

authentic“Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.”- G. K. Chesterton The phrase arrested me!

Thirty years ago I spent many afternoons golfing. I was terrible at it. I stopped playing for many reasons. Among them, was knowing that I did not play well.  I was not willing to invest time and money to develop the skills that would allow me to be a respectable golfer. Spending three hours puttering around the course was quite enjoyable, but not many of my follow golfers wanted a guy along on the course who was just out hitting the ball and soaking up sunshine. I wasn’t a ‘serious’ golfer. I let the pressure of competition steal a simple pleasure from me so I quit!

I know more than a few people who love to teach children who want to quit the profession.  The constant testing, the pressure to turn wonderful little people into little computers who can spit out data on demand with a high degree of accuracy is not what they want to do. Tiny Sally is an artist for whom math is an exercise in torture. Mark’s passion is reading but he must draw! They must test well regardless of whether they learn! This is the tragedy of modern education.

A small church of a 100 or so enthusiastic Christians may be a wonderfully healthy Body, nurturing people into a relationship with God, that is deep and authentic, but … that little congregation can destroy their community by trying to become who they are not!  The leaders pressure the pastor to take on a ton of debt, to develop ministries to which they are not called and cannot adequately staff, for one reason: that is what ‘churches of excellence’ do. Instead of being the church that God ordained them to be, they feel they must be the church that some leadership blog lauds as being IT.

The idolatry of perfection creeps into everything, turning our focus onto ourselves away from the service of God. The result is that fewer of us live joyful, committed, and fulfilled lives. Instead we are perpetually desperate, anxious, and cranky!

Who does God want YOU to be?
What gifts and callings has He given to YOU?
Where are YOU in life right now and are you dealing with the realities of the PRESENT?

We don’t age with grace because baldness, thick waist lines, and wrinkles are not acceptable in the modern standard of perfection of perpetual youthfulness. It’s the way of life that youth gives way to age and God’s plan is that the deficits that come with aging are offset by the strength of wisdom! Proverbs 16:31 reminds us that “Gray hair is a mark of distinction, the award for a God-loyal life.”

We can’t let our kids be ordinary (almost a curse word to some!) because to do so is to fail to push them to their potential. So, conforming to the ways of the world, we make them crazy competitors who don’t know the joy of doing anything just ‘for the fun of it;‘ who spend the rest of their lives living on with stress and anxiety.   Why don’t we ever just say,  “Just play baseball and enjoy it, son.” Oh no, we have to ruin Little League for him, making a 9 year old kid play the game like the destiny of the universe rides on whether his team wins!

We will not rejoice in who we are because if we are always focused on what we could be… if only…   Many spouses suffer under the strain of being compared to that one that is ‘so perfect.’ Your husband cannot function if you expect him to be Jesus, Brad Pitt, and Tony Robbins all at the same time.  Your wife cannot possibly be Martha Stewart, Tyra Banks, and Mother Teresa.   Would we destroy what could be a great relationship, missing the treasure we have, because our expectations are skewed by our cultural expectations?

The joy of Christ and His love will be lost to stress and strain IF we measure and compare ourselves to others. God’s will is that we surrender to the Spirit’s call and allow Him to use us – just as we are, right where we are- for His purposes.  In Romans 14, Paul teaches us that we must never compare ourselves and our gifts to others.  Our grade of success is set by the One who knows exactly what we can do, what we are called to do, and how we are gifted to do those things.  The approval or condemnation of the crowd has little meaning for the true servant of Christ.

“Jerry,” you say, “I am shocked that you would applaud mediocrity.” If that what you’re thinking, either I have communicated poorly or you have jumped to the wrong conclusion.  It’s not mediocrity that I’m urging on us today, it is acceptance of who we are and contentment in the situations in which we find ourselves at this moment. God has a plan for each one of us, and we can’t all be the President of the United States or evangelist Billy Graham! If we attempt, in the name of excellence, to be someone that we are not called or equipped to be, we will miss out on the great joy that comes to those who are humble – that is, no more and no less than God calls them to be.

Ask God who He is asking you to be, without comparison to some external standard of ‘excellence.’ Rejoice in the spiritual gifts and opportunities He has presented to you and be the person He wants, not the person others are demanding you become. Give up the need to be recognized, to ‘win’ the award, to earn applause – except the applause of Heaven earned as we perform for the Audience of One. In this humility and contentment we will find that life is much more pleasant for us and for all those around us. AND, I am absolutely convinced, that in the end, we will accomplish more, and what we do, because it is done for God, will be of lasting value!

Oh what joy is found in being no more, no less than the person He created us to be. The word from the Word – “I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.“   The Message Phillipians 4:11-13

____________

Beautiful Things (Listen at this link)

All this pain,

I wonder if I’ll ever find my way?

I wonder if my life could really change,

At all?

 

All this earth,

Could all that is lost ever be found?

Could a garden come up from this ground,

At all?

 

You make beautiful things,

You make beautiful things out of the dust.

You make beautiful things,

You make beautiful things out of us.

 

Hope is springing up from this old ground,

Out of chaos life is being found,

In You.

 

You make me new, You are making me new!

You make me new, You are making me new!

Lisa Gungor | Michael Gungor

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