I stood behind the mic. Opened my mouth and began to let the words flow. About half-way in, it happened! A speaker’s worst nightmare: the memory lapse. I could not recall what word was to come next. I paused. I repeated. Then moved on to a part I could remember.
I placed the mic back on the stand and took my seat. I wanted to go hide! Later that evening, I decided to reach out to a friend who was in the audience. She offered some encouraging words in an attempt to assure me that I had done a great job despite what my internal dialogue was suggesting. Then she closed the text message with, “you did see the standing ovation, right?”
“Standing ovation?” I thought. What “standing ovation?”
That’s when I realized I had once again become a prisoner of perfection! I showed up with confidence, excitement, and skill. And with the memory lapse came the handcuffs. I was carried away. My focus on my mistake led me right to solitary confinement, isolated from an awareness of God’s gracious signs of appreciation for what He’d used me to accomplish.
Instead of walking away grateful for the 491 words that flowed in such a way that listeners were moved to respond with applause, I walked away sulking over the 9 words I forgot to say.
Listen closely, my fellow perfectionist: let it go! We must stop the madness! Yes, Matthew 5:48 calls us to be “perfect as [our] heavenly Father is perfect.” Turns out, the Greek word for “perfect” here is telios. It means “brought to its end or completed.” We perfectionists have perhaps misapplied this passage. To be “perfect” is to be completed in Christ and this “completion” is the work of God.
The passage on which I have meditated recently on my road to recovery from this issue is Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We must remember that we are going to mess up. We are going to make mistakes. That is why Jesus came and died on a cross for us. If Jesus was willing to die for my sins, surely, He will not hold a display of human imperfection against me. And if He is not holding it against me, why am I? Or, why do I allow others to do so? The only person who was qualified to condemn me graciously chose to, instead, send His only son to obliterate any form of condemnation.
My problem is, I lived my life as if He died for my sins, not my mistakes. An obsession with perfection can lead us to view mistakes as indicators of a lack of effort, a failure to practice more, study harder, or work longer. Then we spiral into feelings of inadequacy, shame, and regret.
I know mistakes come in all shapes and sizes. They carry varying degrees of impact. No matter the shape, size, or impact, all mistakes can serve as teachable moments. Find the lesson in it, learn that lesson, and move forward.
On the cross, Jesus forgave our shortcomings, our iniquities, and our imperfections. We can, therefore stop striving for “perfection” and rest in His peace.
The Apostle Paul said it best:
“So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us! —is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture . . . None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing . . . absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” Romans 8:34-39 MSG
I don’t know what your mistake was. I don’t know what form of imperfection has you imprisoned. The sad part is, there’s a standing ovation happening, and you’re missing it! The good news is, those chains were unlocked nearly 2000 years ago. Shake them off and take your bow anyhow!
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