The Yoke of Perfection
Updated: Jul 7, 2020
So the Lord has been dealing with me about the issue of perfection in the last few weeks. Honestly, it’s not an area I thought I had an issue but when the Lord keeps highlighting something to you then you would be wise to pay attention; especially when he had broached the subject a few months ago 😊 (https://www.justasiam.ng/post/the-god-adventure). If you’re not an obsessive perfectionist it’s not so easy to spot.
He opened my eyes to see that the underlying cause of some of my life’s stresses was, as He put it, the “yoke of perfection”; that underlying belief that if everything isn’t right then….
Then what? I had to explore what I had come to believe were the consequences of my imperfections. So many of our belief sets are sub-conscious so we really need to still ourselves, search our hearts, and pinpoint the roots of the fruits that we see.
I am no psychologist but the more I reflected on the subject the more I started realising that though the issue was complex and layered with many underlying feelings, the key factor underneath the quest for perfection was a fear of rejection. A good friend rightly pointed out that sometimes pride can also be a root cause. Invariably, however, the desire for perfection is driven by a fear of being found not acceptable, of not measuring up, of being unloved, of broken relationships, etc. Online research confirmed this conclusion. I know it may seem like a tenuous link but please flow with me.
I think that for so many of us we have this quiet fear that if we don’t do “it”, then “it” may never get done or “it” may not get done right (whatever “it” is). Or if we do do “it” but we don’t get “it” just right then we would have failed, or worse still, be failures. We fear that we will end up disappointing; disappointing ourselves, God, and/or others. There is this sub-conscious belief that this real or perceived disappointment will result in God and/or other people being unhappy or, worse still, angry with us. Taking this thought-pattern further, we fear that this may culminate in damaged or broken relations - “they wouldn’t love us the way we want them to.” In other words, rejection! Psychologists have determined that us human beings have a fundamental need to belong. Consequently, we go to lengths to protect ourselves from rejection; whether real or perceived. If this thought-flow doesn’t make sense to you at first read then please spend a bit of time with the Lord reflecting on it and drawing parallels with relevant situations you may have faced.
Let’s ask ourselves a few questions. How true are some of these implicit assumptions that we make? How likely are we to end up being rejected because we didn’t get everything right? And even if we were to end up being rejected by certain people, what would be the long-term implications? As painful as it may be to contemplate these possibilities, the reality is that the world (not even “our world’) will not come to an end; at least not if we do not let it.
Striving for perfection is our own way of making ourselves acceptable – to ourselves, to God and to others. We must keep reminding ourselves, however, that our seeming perfection or imperfection makes us no more or less loved and accepted by God. God loves us because that is who He is and it is because He loved us that He sent His son to repair our broken relationship with Him. Our relationship with Him was broken before we were even born but, more importantly, the solution to the broken relationship was also prepared for us before we were born. All we need to do is to accept this truth – not as a one-off exercise but daily.
Regarding making ourselves acceptable to others, well that is a very slippery slope. The reality is that you will never be able to please everyone no matter how hard you try. Not just because you are not perfect but because no one is. We can only love and accept people based on our level of wholeness and the measure of love we have within us. Sometimes our being rejected by someone is not a reflection on us but actually a reflection of where they are at. Equally, rejection of ourselves is a reflection of where we are at; it’s simply signalling areas we may need to work on.
So where does this fear of rejection come from? Again, there is no simple answer – it usually comes from many places. I share a few examples below not as a definitive list but to start you thinking about the possible doors in your life through which the yoke of perfection may have entered.
Authority figures in your life such as parents, grandparents and teachers who criticised you, upbraided you or punished you when mistakes were made.
Friends who gossiped about you, made you feel small or embarrassed, or even ostracised or broke relationship with you when you did (or even didn’t) do something wrong.
Elements of the Church that have led us to believe that for us to be loved and accepted by God we must: “read our bibles and pray every day”, spend as much time as possible serving Him (through church work) and not sin (at all). In short, we must be perfect to be perfectly loved and accepted by God.
Society in general that has implicitly and explicitly taught us that for us to belong we must look a certain way, speak a certain way, behave a certain way, and so on and so forth.
Last, and by no means least, ourselves. Not so much by having believed the lies we have received from others, but by continuing to believe and perpetuate the lies; in our lives and in the lives of others.
Let’s think of our hearts and minds as gardens. We all have a personal responsibility to maintain “our gardens” by regularly checking for weeds (i.e. negative thought patterns), removing the weeds (from the roots), and watering the gardens with the truth (none better than the word of God). As with any garden, we will thrive best when we are positioned somewhere with good sunlight; the sunlight of God’s love and the love of family and friends.
So back to my conversation with the Father. As He was speaking to me about this yoke of perfection on my neck, I sensed Him correcting the notion that He expects us to be perfect. He clarified that what He asks of us is our love, honour and respect; to obey Him.
He made me understand that one big reason why He does not expect perfection from us is because He already knows we could never be perfect; that’s precisely why He sent Jesus Christ. Our efforts to be perfect suggest that there was no need for Jesus to come. It’s basically saying, “Hang back Jesus, hang back Holy Spirit, I’ve gat this!”
I found it liberating to sense God state clearly that I will not be perfect; that I will make mistakes.
If you think about it:
Father God knew that and still loves us and called us to His specific purpose.
Jesus knew that and not only still went ahead to die for us; He did so because of that knowledge.
The Holy Spirit knew that so He came down to help us.
If we were perfect then Jesus would not have needed to come down, show us the way to live life and then die for us; neither would the Holy Spirit have needed to come down and still be down here today.
I then sensed the Lord saying that perfection was placing a focus on one’s self rather than a focus on Him. It’s us looking to ourselves to be all we think we can be rather than looking to God to help us to be all that He created us to be. It’s trying to control everything rather than leaving things in God’s hands. It’s seeking glory instead of leaving all the glory to God. Yep, that’s pride!
As if to affirm me further, I heard Him whisper the following to my heart. I believe He is whispering the same to you too so please personalise this as you read it.
Just come to Me and rest.
Rest in the knowledge that I love you.
Rest in the knowledge that I called you for My specific purposes.
Rest in the knowledge that I am able.
Rest in the knowledge that in your weakness, I am made strong.
Rest in the knowledge that I love and accept you just the way you are.
Rest in the finished work of Christ.
Let us silence the internal and external call for perfection with the word of God which says:
That we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
That Jesus has paid the price for all our sins; once and for all.
(In case you didn’t get it before) that all our sins - past, present and future - have already been forgiven. We just need to avail ourselves of that.
That the Father will never leave us nor forsake us.
That the Lord is ordering our steps.
That God works all things out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
That Jesus is praying for us in heaven.
That we can do nothing without God.
That the Holy Spirit is our helper.
That the Lord has given us all things pertaining to life and godliness.
That He has told us to cast all our cares on Him because He cares for us.
That whether we go to the left or the right we will hear the words, “This is the way, walk in it.”
That Father God has the whole world in His hands, including us.
That He has our relationships in His hands.
That He has our loved ones in His hands.
That He has our careers and businesses in His hands.
That He has our health in His hands.
That He has our hopes and dreams in His hands.
That He has our whole lives in the very palm of His hands.
Enjoy the peace and release that comes from rolling everything into the Father’s hands and leaving them there.
God loves us perfectly because He is perfect and not because we are perfect. That’s how it has always been and that’s how it will continue to be. Also, His perfect love drives out all fear. The more His perfect love flows through us, the less fear there will be in us.
So, as the Lord has reaffirmed that He does not expect perfection from us, may He help us to not expect perfection from others. By endeavouring to not expect perfection from others we become less critical and judgemental, and far more tolerant and forgiving. We would be full of compassion for people in their very imperfections.
The desire for perfection is a huge stumbling block.
Go on ahead, have a go!
Make mistakes and learn from them.
Strive for excellence not perfection.
Excellence is trying to be like God
Perfection is trying to be God Himself.
Give yourself a break!
Do not put more of a burden on yourself than you ought.
Live a little, live a lot!
I am a bit worried that this piece isn’t “good enough”, that it’s not “perfect”. I went ahead to “free myself” and publish it anyway 😊.