November 3, 2011

aiming for adequate

"you can explore the universe looking for somebody who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and you will not find that person anywhere." unknown

"the image of myself which i try to create in my own mind in order that i may love myself is very different from the image which i try to create in the minds of others in order that they may love me.” w.h. auden

it has been far too long since i've been able to write due to surviving what has been the most challenging semester of my existence. but despite these challenges, i have learned some life-changing lessons during the past few months that could only be learned as the result of struggle.

i frequently write about the struggles of other people and the ways in which i see them overcoming those obstacles, but i have never had the courage to share and confront my greatest struggle and weakness in the same way. but that, dear friends, is about to change as i share with you the greatest struggle of my heart: accepting my adequacy.

if you know me at all, you know that i am as A type as they come. i believe that i started feeling the need to take control of my life and to become a perfectionist at about the age of 4. since that time, i have been a tiny, feisty firecracker of a person who aims for perfection and likes to have things done my way, and i have known my own mind and spirit for as long as i can remember.

nothing thrills my soul more than when my shoes, my bag, and my jewelry all coordinate. my planner is on my person at all times. my closet is color-coordinated. my counters are regularly lysoled. i only write with sharpie pens. and i make sure that my handwriting is comparative to a font.

pleasing other people and meeting or even outdoing their expectations revs my engine. making decisions that will make others think i'm spiritual, intelligent, wise, cute, funny...perfect is my greatest aim. sometimes i feel like i have created a fictional character out of myself in my attempt to be the leading lady of my life, and it causes me to question whether that character is a real person.

i love any logical and reasonable type of measurement that marks progress and success in my life, and i measure my personal worth based on achievement. if i take a test, i expect an A+, and that A+ can keep me happy for a week. if i tell a joke, i expect it to be hilarious, but if it didn't receive the intended reaction, i begin to question why it didn't. if i go out for something, i expect to get it, and i can get hung up for weeks trying to figure out what prevented me from getting what i wanted. i want to do the best and to be the best in everything that i do without exception.

and the most puzzling part is that i don't impose any of these standards on anyone else but only on myself. i am pretty open-minded and easily forgiving of the imperfections of other people, and accepting any inadequacies that they might possess is an act of love that i perform happily. but with myself, i create an impossible standard and expectation that no one would ever be able to meet and then am disappointed when i prove to be just like everybody else.

i struggle with the concepts of being perfect just like GOD is perfect (matthew 5:48), not even showing a hint of immorality (ephesians 5:3), being holy and blameless (ephesians 1:4), and letting no unwholesome talk come out of my mouth (ephesians 4:29) while accepting my inadequacies and imperfections and realizing that i will never reach the perfection for which i aim. it is a constant battle and war that i fight internally every day, the struggle between striving for perfection and aiming for adequacy.

my greatest critic, judge, enemy, evaluator, antagonist, and competitor...is myself, but the constant war that i'm fighting is proving to be endless and without a victor. and that is what has made me realize that i have been aiming for the wrong thing. and after a lifetime of striving for perfection, it's time to start aiming for "adequate."

when we aim too hard for perfection, we don't leave any room for grace, and while we should strive to be like CHRIST, nothing we do will ever merit goodness or salvation. when we personally fail, we can't let it be the end of our world, because GOD doesn't make it the end of HIS. HE separates our shortcomings, inadequacies, and imperfections as far as the east is from the west, and we should learn to do the same.

that's not to say that we should only do just enough to get by or that we should try to barely pass instead of fail. but it's only when we start attempting to be adequate that we realize the magnitude of GOD'S gift and perfection. and it's when we take the pressure off and lose the unrealistic expectations that we have set that we accurately see the life that GOD has planned for us, one without fear or question because HIS perfect love drives out the fear.

salvation and redemption are not matters of A+ and A-. eternal life is not earned by a clean record. no record of GOD'S is permanent and unable to be erased. and we must occasionally realize our humanity and issues in order to visualize the true, accurate picture of ourselves and the true, accurate picture of our GOD. and it's only when we truly embrace our adequacy that we can begin to realize our future perfection. therefore, i stand before you, wishing for perfection but aiming for adequate.