In July of 2010, I was asked to serve as a leader in BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) after being involved in this ministry for 8 years. I knew this position would require much time, energy, and sacrifice. I soon realized that I just didn’t have time to keep my life as “perfect” as I wanted. Something had to go since BSF leadership requires commitment for two days of the week and my preschool division director’s job took up another two days. I now had fifteen ladies to shepherd, ten teachers to lead and still be super-mom for my family. How in the world can I do all of this and still maintain my status as a perfectionist?
As I began the study of Isaiah, I earnestly sought to make His priorities my priorities, and let go of my need to have everything in order. Sometimes that meant tasks were left undone or allowing my family to do things around the house knowing it might not be done the way I wanted it done! This was very hard for me to learn to give my entire agenda to God.
I had never considered my perfectionism as an idol. I thought I didn’t have idols like the rest of the world (money, job, big house or fancy car). But the book of Isaiah forces you to look at sinful people who rejected Him, refused to listen to His warning and chose idols over Him. One day I was challenged with the question: “What do I want in my life more than my desire to please God?” I was hit over the head with the idea that perfectionism is an idol. God revealed to me that idols give us a sense of control and begin with pride and self-absorption. Idols are a way of finding security and satisfaction in something besides God and are an inflated substitute for Him which can lead to disobedience. Idols rule your life, your time, your thoughts and emotions. They don’t always become a full replacement for God, but take over parts of our lives and burden those around us. Idols can be perfectionism, anxiety, worry, shopping, time on the internet, our ministry, our job, our image, or even our children.
I was soon convicted that I’m no different than the stubborn people of Isaiah’s day. My idol of perfectionism pushed God out of His rightful place. It gave me security, filled my need to be in control, and provided satisfaction in having a neat, organized life. It led me to sin when I reacted in anger to my family when things were not done right or not done my way. It at times ruled my life when I became inflexible and willing to sacrifice time with God or family in order to get things done “right.”
I began to pray: “God, I need you to be first in my life. Help me set aside my desires and not chase things that are foolish. Remind me that you deserve ALL of me because you have given me ALL of you. Teach me to be still and listen to your voice and walk in your truth.” God has given me freedom as I began to release my perfectionism and walk in submission to Him. He has given me new priorities and direction each day. He has provided power to eliminate the things in my life that cause burden and unrealistic expectations, and the ability to delegate the things I used to think only I could do right. There is joy, blessing, and peace when we don’t try to do life in our own power. God’s provisions are abundant when we submerse ourselves in His Word and submit daily to the Holy Spirit.
There are days perfectionism rears its ugly head, but God gently reminds me to turn it back over to Him. He also puts friends in our lives with similar struggles to encourage them and help keep us accountable. In December 2011, I was doing my BSF lesson on Hebrews 12-13 and received an email from a friend that day. She was overwhelmed with juggling things in a busy life and frustrated at just not “getting it all right.” As a fellow perfectionist, I understood where she was coming from and God graciously provided me with scripture that day for her. I typed up the following in an email as a prayer for her and myself. I hope that today you will be also be encouraged to let go of the idols that hinder your life. Idols are anything you value more than God at any given time and at any given moment. Trust in Jesus and His sacrifice that bring freedom, power, and fullness of life. It’s ok not to get it all “right”!
Hebrews 12:1-31"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders (perfectionism) and the sin that so easily entangles (need to be in control and not depend on God), and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us (mother, wife, friend, teacher, mentor, volunteer, etc.). 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus (not the stuff we're trying to get right), the author and perfector of our faith (who understands what it means to be human), who for joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning it's shame (because He loves me), and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (because His work was done and I don't have to do anything but trust Him). 3 Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (even when having one of those days).