You know sometimes I just see people and they just look so perfect. Their hair is perfectly coifed, body perfectly toned, and their kids are well dressed sitting politely in a row. They don't seem rushed or frazzled or worried about how they are going to pay next months bills. It's hard not to be jealous. I just get tired sometimes of feeling like I'm trying so hard, and everyone else is just doing better than me. I know we are not supposed to compare and other people have struggles and blah blah blah, but sometimes...sigh...sometimes it just hurts.
For lent, I asked God what He wanted me to give up. I always like to give up a certain food group and pretend I'm giving it up for God and being such a good Christian - the truth is I'm usually just hoping it will make me skinnier. It doesn't always happen this way, but I felt it in my heart, loud and clear - God told me that He wanted me to give up my desire for perfection. Maybe that's a walk in the park for you, but for me, that's the hardest 40 days of my life. I am not perfect, never have been, but boy, I like things to be neat and tidy, and if they are not going to be at home I like to at least look like I have it together when I walk out the door - I think we all do to some degree. Anyway, it's the hardest thing I have ever done, but probably one of the best things.
And I realized, while giving this up, that when I was giving up things being perfect, trading this mental and physical emotional energy for things more imporant like spending time with God, loving on my family, and in general just focusing on what my real priorities were, I felt more relaxed....UNTIL...the worst - I just made it out of the house alive, got where I was going with kids dressed, fed, and buckled, but I had no makeup on, didn't brush my hair, and was wearing a t-shirt again, and some perfectly dressed woman with her perfect children walks past me. Barf. And then I felt it, that anxious energy rising again...perfection...I want to look like I have it all together. But then I got past that, and I let it go. Then, worse than that, someone I care about or look up to overlooks me because I look disheiveled or comments that I look tired (no I'm not tired, thank you, I just did not have time to put makeup on today, but I'm here aren't I?) But then I got past that. And then here's the real kicker - some well dressed woman with her perfect kids who volunteers for everything under the sun and her life just must be stinking perfect dares to tell me "Why don't you just...". It took all the power within me not to smack that woman, and then cry. But by God's good grace I didn't and He showed me that they are struggling with holding themselves to a ridiculous standard too and that their "perfection" is really a fascade....sometimes we just think it's better if we can at least convince some people that we have it together - at least that way we can get some respect, right.
A wise woman told me that we are often comparing our "backstage lives" to others' "onstage lives". It's so true. We often see people in their element or workplace or at church and they just seem to have it all together, and it just feels like their images of perfection, even their facebook photos and cute tweets are stomping our sense of worth into the ground. But the truth is that most of that is just image management, very little is real.
Dave Ramsey says not to try to keep up with the Joneses because the Joneses are broke - and I think that applies to more than just money. Many people are broke physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally...and their image is all they have left, it's protecting their shred of dignity.
In the home stretch of lent, God revealed something to me. that if I am going to be His servant and truthfully, I ever just want to walk in wholeness, I am going to have to give up perfection for the rest of my life. It is freeing, even though it is a challenge, but more than that, I think we have a responsibility to live that way. I don't want to stir up jealousy over a fake image of me. And I don't want to spend more time trying to look like I have a great life than actually enjoying this life.
It is challenging to be authentic, to be real, but it is worth it, not just for your own freedom, but for the freedom of others too.