We’re living in a time that could easily be labeled, “The Spirit of Perfection.” We live under a constant barrage of how “perfect” we are supposed to be or strive for. These “perfect” attacks begin in the New Year and culminate with the holidays. The New Year encourages us to make this year the best year of our life, because last year wasn’t? This perfect New Year can only be accomplished by revamping everything by the way. And the holidays? Well, in order to have the “perfect” holiday look no further than social media. Pinterest will tell us how to do it and our neighbor’s Facebook updates will show us how it’s done!
The Spirit of Perfection
I am totally preaching to my own choir of one here. I can feel myself slowly slipping into that “perfect” mindset. I read a book on Hygge and instead of appreciating the way my home invites my family to rest, I picked out all the ways I fail or will never achieve the perfect spirit of Hygge because I don’t light tons of candles and I drive to soccer practices most evenings instead of tucking myself and family in for the cold Winter evenings playing board games by the fire. Board games around the fire with my family is not my thing anyway. There, I said it.
Reading the latest, greatest “perfect” spiritual book about getting up early, early in the morning–4:30 in the morning, to spend quiet time with God will not make me perfect. Actually, it will likely make me a mean, gripey, grouchy, grumpy, impatient, sleep deprived wife and momma. If my goal was perfection and the enemy’s was discouragement…Enemy 1-Jenny 0.
How about making color-coded Pinterest worthy plans to read a set number of books this year? Sounds worthy…until I miss my “Book ‘A’ must be finished by this date” deadline. Then discouragement sets in and I start beating myself up mentally because I can’t even finish the very first book on my over exuberant and honestly, quite ridiculous one-year book list. I need to call that a running book list.
And don’t even get me started on the “perfect” planner. Although I believe I have finally found a planner and system that work for me…I’ve thought that before many times in the last two years. It’s not the planners, it’s me, totally and completely me. If I never saw another planner, I would be perfectly happy with the one I’m using right now. It works when I use it and doesn’t when I don’t. (The picture below is linked to the planner.)
What if this life I live, semi dictated by eight other people, just gets too busy to be “perfect?” What if I don’t finish the silly book by a certain date because I’ve been sitting on a soccer sideline or playing legos or painting at the dining room table? Or better yet, what if this book is speaking directly to my soul at this time and I need to read it in smaller chunks so I can properly digest the instruction. Did I really fail?
And what if my 1984 Ranch style home doesn’t have clean, white lines, multi-texture wall hangings or candles upon candles? What if it only contains a few vigil prayer candles pulled out and lit when the need is so great and pressing it requires a constant, consuming fire to remind me to pray? And what if instead of board games around the fire, we eat our family’s favorite and the yummiest popcorn (with coconut oil and nutritional yeast) in the front room watching College football or favorite musicals? Have I failed at the spirit of perfection? Or have I embraced my own? (I want a few of these so bad I can barely stand it!)
Maybe I don’t get up at 4:30am to spend quiet time with God. But I get up early enough to stretch to a Fitness Blender video with my teen girls and stay up late listening to the hearts of little souls with big concerns or messaging an online friend with words of encouragement digitally flowing back and forth between the two of us.
Years ago, in my quest for “perfect,” I made a very beautiful schedule. It had evenly spaced boxes and color-coded activities that fit neatly into set time slots, half-hour time slots if I remember correctly. I emailed a copy to my Spiritual Father who instructed me to share it with my husband to see if it would be a burden to him. Whoa…What? A burden to him? This was my schedule, my rule of daily life.
You see, right now and for many years to come, my perfection is completely intertwined with my duties as a wife, mother, homemaker, homeschool and soccer mom. My perfection is not directly related the number of hours I spend in solitary prayer. My perfection is not a direct result of this year spent Bible journaling. My perfection is not dependent on more of me…my plans, my desires, my dreams, and goals. My means of perfection is doing more of what God calls me to do…perfectly.
“Most people when they wish to reform, pay much more attention to filling their life with certain difficult and extraordinary actions, than to purifying their intention and opposing their natural inclination in the ordinary duties of their state. In this they often deceive themselves, for it would be much better to make less change in the actions and more in the dispositions of the soul which prompt them.”
—Practice of Christian and Religious Perfection
You know what the above quote says to me? Clean around the toilet with a cheerful heart. Sweep the floor for the umpteenth time with a smile on my lips. Pick up a lego piece with a joyful spirit. Hug a child, kiss a husband, listen to a friend with no other “perfect” agenda crowding that moment in time.
I am not saying I don’t make resolutions or BIG plans for the New Year. I am not saying I don’t click around the internet looking at ideas for the holidays. I am saying, I have to make those plans according to God’s plans for us. If God desires me to get up in the middle of the night to pray–most likely it will come in the form of a sick child. If God deems it necessary for me to spend long hours on my knees in prayer–most likely it will look like an opportunity to pray while mopping all the tile in my home on hands and knees. If God wants me to feed the hungry–it will probably first look like a group of growing children clamoring in the kitchen of my own home.
So ordinary in fact, I might miss it and most from the outside looking in will too.