Glancing back at my almost-100-year-old grandmother calmly eating her Shredded Wheat with bananas, my mom pulled me aside to tell me about her care-giving challenges that morning. Grandma’s urgent need to straighten up had interrupted the process of getting dressed several times. And she’d felt the need to straighten the lampshade of the bedside lamp, smooth out a miniscule wrinkle in the bedsheets, and bend waaaay over to pick up a barely discernible speck on the floor.
Though weakened by strokes that have affected her mobility and muscle control, Grandma hasn’t lost her sharp eyesight, or her deep desire for order. Anything out of place is distracting and distressing. So if we don’t catch her in time, she’ll pull herself up out of the wheelchair and take faltering steps across the living room, clinging to the piano or the couch, just to turn off an unattended lamp or fix a crooked picture frame on the wall. She forgets her meals and abandons naps. Only when all is set right in her surroundings again can she relax enough to focus on her own personal needs.
“It’s hard to be a perfectionist in an imperfect world,” my mom concluded wryly.
Watching my grandmother, I’m reminded of myself. I often let the imperfections of my life distress and distract me. In The Joy of Imperfection, Enid Howarth and Jan Tras write, “Perfectionism is everyone’s issue. We inhale it with the air pollution. We swim in it. Perfectionism grabs us whenever we curse ourselves for being wrong, being late, being dumb. It haunts us when we know we could have and should have done better, understood everything, and predicted all the consequences.”
God’s Perfect Love
Why do I demand such impossibly high standards of myself? I need to face the reality that I am an imperfect being. I live in an imperfect world, so people will disappoint me. Circumstances will not go according to plan. I will let others and myself down.
Only my God is perfect. HE will never disappoint, and HE will never change. And HE is not irritated with me or frustrated with me when I fall! He knows my weaknesses, and He is gracious and understanding. He loves and accepts me the way I am! So when I’m focusing on my failures and flaws, I will choose instead to fix my eyes on God’s perfect love and acceptance of imperfect little me – crooked lampshades and all!
“As for God, His way is perfect: The LORD’s word is flawless; He shields all who take refuge in Him.” II Samuel 22:31 (NIV)