I’ve been reading a book on parenting teens. Fun stuff, the teenage wrangling. But really, this book is good. It’s Losing Control and Liking It, by Tim Sanford. One point has come home to me quite well: perfectionism kills relationship. My teen can be persuaded (occasionally) and influenced (sometimes), but in reality she can not be controlled. It’s a relational deal. Not just with teenagers, of course, but perfectionism between me and God. Extrapolating Sanford’s concept, if I think my heavenly Father expects perfection of me, the way I define it, there’s a stranglehold on our relationship because I can’t live up to that. There’s just no way for me to fill those big ethereal shoes. Yet, the Apostle Paul writes “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.” (Colossians 1: 28). He wants you and me to be perfect, but in his way, not ours. I’m reminded that the same guy told us that “the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17).

When my husband and I were newlyweds, some prayer and prophecy people came to minister at our church. We were asked if we’d like for them to pray over us; we agreed. They were given our names ahead of time for prayer purposes, but otherwise knew nothing about us. Sitting onstage in front of our congregation, one of the things I remember most clearly was his kindly face as he smiled and said to me, “You deal with a certain degree of perfectionism, don’t you?” Cringe. Yep. Not in terms of order and organization (don’t open my closet!), but in terms of what I expect of others. There’s been progress, but it’s been a lifelong process, and will likely continue to the grave.

God’s “perfection” for us is so different than the perfection we often impose on ourselves.  Mr. Sanford suggests we say “could” rather than “should” to cut off that perfectionism in our expectations of others. Subtle, but I’m finding it to be true. Self-talk can be impacted, as well, if we’ll just allow ourselves that kind of space. We have choices, and sometimes we don’t make the best ones. BUT we have more opportunities, more options. I’m aware of the danger of allowing myself to procrastinate and always leave the best choices for later. But removing that self-imposed perfection gives me more breathing room. Our Father gives us a perfection to shoot for that sets us free instead of putting us into bondage. You could breathe a bit more, then.