Replacing Perfectionism with God’s Grace

Replacing Perfectionism with God’s Grace

Yoda was wrong.

In “The Empire Strikes Back”, he says, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

I realize that the well-intentioned meaning behind this phrase is tough love to get someone to stop making excuses and do what they need to do. I agree that there are times when we need to be challenged to let go of our perceived limitations and get the job done.

However, those of us who struggle with perfectionism and/or black-and-white thinking can take that to mean that success is the only acceptable outcome. All effort along the way, regardless of how sincere or disciplined, is invalid.

What if God called me to run a 10K race? I can barely run to my car when it’s raining; I’m not in the necessary physical shape to run long distances. The normal thing to do would be for me to start training. I’d run a little bit each day. I’d commit to the disciplines necessary to achieve the goal. And then one day, maybe a year later, I’d complete a 10K race.

Yay! I successfully completed what God called me to do.

But according to the “there is no try” philosophy, every day during that year that I didn’t run the full 10K was a failure. Trying to run a little more today than I did yesterday is not good enough. “Do or do not” says that complete success is the only thing that matters.

I reject that philosophy.

Nike said, “Just do it.” God said, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Heb. 11:1)

God went on to commend a whole list of people that pleased Him, in spite of the fact that they didn’t always “succeed.”

Hebrews 11:13
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.

Abraham never saw the completion of God’s will for his life. Moses never went into the promised land. Does that mean they were failures?

Of course not!

But my perfectionistic mind, urged on by the accuser (Rev. 12:10), tries to make me focus on the gap between where I am and where God wants me to be.

And I fall for it over and over again. I find myself believing the lie that none of my efforts amount to anything because I’m not seeing the success I expect to see. (Never mind the fact that the definition of that success is probably unrealistic to start with.)

How do I fight these thoughts? I run to God’s Word and hold onto His grace.

Hebrews 4:15-16
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

I need grace when I fall short of the goal. One of the ways God shows me His grace is by giving me examples of others who fell short, but were not abandoned by Him.

Paul was extremely aware of his own failures.

Romans 7:24-25
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

God sent Jesus to bridge the gap between my failure and His perfection. His sacrifice provided for my eternal salvation, but He also provided for my daily walk.

Paul told us how he dealt with his daily progress toward the goal.

Philippians 3:12-14
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

He did each day what God told him to do each day. Then at the end of the day, he let it go and looked forward to the next day.

When I can’t reach the goal and the accusations of failure are ringing in my ears, I find strength in God’s Word to let it go.

I press toward the goal – I do what I can – and then I trust that Jesus will cover the gap with His grace.

How do you handle the days when you don’t reach your goals?

Photo credit: ivabalk

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