I know I’m not alone. We all have too much going on and too little time to get it all done. We all struggle with saying yes and saying no and cramming too much “good stuff” into what little time we have. It happens to me every single year right about this time. And so often, I come dangerously close to missing what this season is all about.
Trying to get ahead of myself this year, I’m choosing to be mindful of my “P’s.” Perfectionism and People-Pleasing. Why these two get turned up a hundred degrees during this winter season is beyond me, but they demand that I keep a constant check on them both.
Perfectionism is something I’ve been trying to overcome for a while now. Not only do I struggle with thinking everything around me should be perfect, but there is a desire deep within me to make myself perfect, too. In my mind I know this is impossible, yet I strive for it daily. And it doesn’t stop there. If I expect myself to be perfect, then you can bet my expectations for those around me are way up there as well. Especially those who are closest to me.
While I’ve made some strides in lowering those unrealistic expectations, I still get sucked back in every now and then. And it usually happens when my mind is cluttered and distracted. I read an awesome book this summer, given to me by a dear friend who understands my struggle. It’s called You’re Already Amazing, by Holley Gerth. And I found the most freeing piece of scripture within her message:
If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 1 John 4:12 (NKJV)
I now realize that I don’t have to be perfect, because God’s perfect love lives inside of me. This word for perfect actually means complete, whole. My life in Christ should continue to grow and mature, but it begins when I acknowledge that I am nothing without Jesus. That He is what gives my life meaning. He is what makes me complete.
This spring, Cody bought me a pair of polarized sunglasses for our anniversary. First of all, I should say, I have never spent more than $20 on a pair of sunglasses and that’s at the high end. A $5 pair has always served its purpose just fine. But, having purchased some polarized sunglasses himself for a recent fishing trip, he wanted to splurge and get me these ridiculously, over-priced sunglasses. When I found out how much they cost, I told me that I could not keep them. But then, I put them on and walked outside. Immediately after that, I changed my mind and decided to keep them. Oh, and I think I said thank you to my sweet husband.
Less than a month later, Jake knocked them off the kitchen counter and a teeny, tiny scratch resulted from the fall. It was barely noticeable… until I put them on. That teeny, tiny scratch lined up perfectly with the exact spot on the lens that my right eye looked through when I put them on. After inquiring about replacing the lens (and calculating how many $5 pair of sunglasses I could buy with the money it would require to purchase one lens), I decided to live with the scratch. It’s a good reminder to me that God can use all those scratches, scrapes, and scars, if I let Him.
I'm learning, through my own brokenness, that when His light lives inside me, He can shine through those cracks, which He allowed in the first place. I’ve come to appreciate the messiness of life too, and have found beauty in what otherwise seems to be a very ugly place. And it all started with recognizing that I will never be perfect. It’s not possible. And I have wasted so much time and energy trying to make it happen, when God says that He can use me just like this, imperfections and all.
Oh, but there’s that other pesky “P:” People-pleasing. This sounds so noble, so gracious, so selfless. But God has shown me that it is actually the essence of selfishness and pride. Pleasing people has nothing at all to do with the fact that I care about people… it has everything to do with the fact that I care about what they think of me! It involves thoughts centered entirely around me. I’ve been guilty of spending an absorbent amount of time replaying conversations in my head.
What did she mean when she said that?
Oh, I should have said this….
What does she think of me?
That was a dumb thing to say….
And when I give that much brain space to myself, it is sickening. But that is exactly what people-pleasing is all about. Putting myself higher than others and wanting desperately to be liked and valued and accepted. All of the things that God gives to me freely. I don’t have to win a popularity contest, because He says that I am loved, valued, and accepted, flaws and all.
A phrase from the book my friend gave to me that I have seared into my memory so I never forget it is this: “Love all, please One.”
So simple, yet so very hard to live out. God is the only One who sees my heart, so He is the only One I should be seeking to please. Matthew 22:37-39 holds Jesus’ response to the question: “What is the greatest commandment?”
We are commanded to love others too, but this comes second to giving God top priority in our hearts. And loving people is different than pleasing people. Love accepts that others might not agree with me. Love gives even though it understands that it is impossible to be liked by everyone. Making sure that my words, my attitudes, and my actions are pleasing to God lets me off the hook of trying to make everyone like me. Instead of replaying conversations in my head, wondering what so-and-so thought about such-and-such, I can approach God and ask, “What do you think of this?” and “What do you think of me?”
Asking God to share his thoughts is something that I forget to do. In my busyness, I often seek to get these questions answered by others, when, in fact, God is waiting for me to take those questions to Him. And when I get still enough and quiet enough, I am always amazed at what I hear in that gentle whisper.
He waits for us to ask. He wants us to come to Him and place Him as the top priority in our lives. The rest just kinda falls into place. So, as I step back and stare at my jam-packed calendar, I have to stop and ask God,
What do you think about all of this?
What is most important to you?
What have I committed to with the wrong motives or wrong attitudes?
What do I need to let go of?
How do you want my time to be used?
And then comes the challenging part: clearing away the distractions so that I can hear His answer.
Find out what pleases the Lord. Ephesians 5:10 NIV