If you have spent any time at all reading this blog, you’ll know that I’m both a control freak and a perfectionist, and while those characteristics have positive sides to them, they can also be quite negative when it comes to everyday living. While striving to understand a situation is good, trying to control every aspect will drive you nuts, and the same is true of perfectionism. It’s good to do your best, but no matter how hard you try, you can’t be perfect. And if you try to do so, you’ll nitpick and pigeonhole yourself into a dark hole of depression.
It’s good to control the things you can control, and it’s good to do your best; but we can’t go to extremes with either of them because we simple human beings can’t handle either of them. They’re too much for us. But that doesn’t stop us from trying.
I’m so thankful that God doesn’t require us to be perfect. He knows we can’t be, and He understands that. Of course, that doesn’t mean we can just let down and live however we want. That’s not the point. Understand where I’m coming from. As a perfectionist, there’s a part of me that is convinced that my best is never good enough, and that I can’t just take God at His Word that He loves me no matter what. I have to perform, and I can’t ever be content with where I am in life. I always have to strive for the next level.
But is that really how a Christian is supposed to live?
Today’s verses are Philippians 4:10-12.
How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.
This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible, and always before I’ve focused on the fact that Paul is talking about being content with little or much. I’ve been in those situations. I’ve been in situations where I had everything I could ever need and even everything that I wanted, whether I needed it or not. But I’ve also been in the position where I had so little I wasn’t 100% sure where my next meal was coming from. And I’ve spent enough time out on the mission’s field to know what it’s like to have to give up the modern comforts and conveniences American’s really cherish. I know what that’s like too.
But these verses hit me differently this morning, because whether or not I have everything I need and everything I want or just enough to scrape by doesn’t really affect my level of contentment. My contentment really has never been based on my material wealth. I’ve always been thankful for what I have.
What struck me this morning was the plain and simple fact that Paul says he has learned to be content.
Paul learned to be content. He was content. Wherever he was, whatever he had, he was content. He wasn’t constantly putting himself down as a failure. He wasn’t always seeking the mistakes he made in order to fix them. He wasn’t always striving to reach the next level of performance.
He was content where he was.
Does that mean we really can be content? Does that mean we can accept where we are in life and not worry about being the best at everything all the time? If you’re a perfectionist like I am, that sounds almost blasphemous, doesn’t it? How dare anyone suggest that we don’t have to do our very best! It’s all for God, isn’t it?
Well, is it?
I run myself into the ground. Daily. Sometimes hourly. All in pursuit of perfection, but I’m not quite sure it’s always for God. I honestly think a lot of it is for me. I’ve admitted on here multiple times that I struggle with pride too. And it’s not too far a leap for perfectionism to turn to pride.
Don’t misunderstand. There’s a vast chasm between contentment and complacency, and I really think the width of that chasm depends on your heart. I think it depends on you and what you’re physically capable of. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll know if you’re being complacent. You’ll know if you’re just accepting the things that come at you and passing them off without really considering what they might be about. You’ll know if you’re treating opportunities to make a difference for God like they don’t matter.
But you’ll also know if you’re killing yourself to achieve the impossible.
So the next time you start stressing out because something isn’t perfect or because you don’t have control over every detail, check your heart. Check your motivation. Do you want to be perfect for the glory of God? Or for yourself? And don’t beat yourself up because you can’t get there. It doesn’t do you any good, and if God would never think those things about you, what makes it okay for you to think them?
Yes, do your best. Yes, invest yourself, your time, your heart, your hope. Yes, strive for the top. But remember your place. And remember your purpose. We’re not here to be perfect. We’re here to praise God. And it’s difficult to praise God when you’ve beaten your own head into the ground.