Friday, December 4, 2009

{ Letting go of Perfect }

Crucifix on the wall of a patient room in the hospital where I work

I am always amazed when God meets me exactly where I am. When He talks the broken pieces of today and uses them to make something beautiful. When He sometimes breaks what I think is whole (or ought to be whole) and creates a new pattern. When He stops me in my tracks and gently turns me back to Him. It doesn't always seem gentle, but given the alternative of continuing hard-heartedly away from Him, even the severest of His mercies is still that: Mercy.

To say I'm a perfectionist is an understatement. To say that I physically don't handle stress well is also an understatement. I am slowly wrapping my head around the fact that "perfect" is an idol I choose to worship, instead of Jesus. "Slowly" because I am stubborn and set in my ways. The fact that I am cognizant of this thwarted worship in my life at all is purely God's grace--God's grace in the form of a body that can't take it any more. His severe mercy that brings me to my knees, which is exactly where I ought to be: worshiping Jesus and not "perfect."

A couple of days ago I was doing an echocardiogram on a patient, as is my wont Monday through Friday. I was on call, still working when I wanted to be home making dinner. Because, in my "perfect" world, that is what I should have been doing, along with running several errands between work and dinner.

God interrupted my echo, bursting the focused-and-frustrated bubble I construct when my plans go awry. Somewhere in the parasternal short axis views, a scene came into my mind out of nowhere. I saw myself as a child, three years old maybe, clutching something like a snowglobe in both hands. Within the globe were images of my life now: Me at work, with Mike, our home and families. I don't know how to describe the next part. I didn't see God, but I knew that He was there and His goal was to pry my fingers off the globe. He wanted me to give my life, contained in that globe, to Him. He wanted to loosen my iron grip on my life, but I was deathly intent on keeping it in my hands, where I could maintain its safety and well-being.

Tears were suddenly smarting in my eyes. I'm sorry, Lord! my soul whispered. An abrupt rush of wonder and comprehension. I've turned this Christmas season into a rigid plan marching toward one goal: Perfection. Not Jesus. I've put so much value on getting everything "right" (which we all know means nothing less than utter flawlessness when I'm talking) that my actual reality is complete misery. Migraines. Acid reflux that leaves me flat on my back for hours because of the accompanying nausea. Self-induced busyness and anxiety. All sorts of delightful plans that are simply impossible--at least on the level I envision--because I work 40+ hours a week and it takes a lot of oomph to try to be Martha Stewart, Version II.

I'm letting go of the control I so dearly love. I'm loosening my grip because, in God's providence, I don't have much of a choice. I can't go on in my little hamster wheel. I'm not going to try to bake cookies for all 11 of our nearest condo neighbors and have them nicely decorated and ready to hand out by next weekend. I'm not going to throw a Christmas/housewarming party. I'm not going to try to read every single Advent devotional I've found on the internet. I'm not going to expect myself to be able to go full-throttle every single day between now and December 25. I'm going to let go of the perfect Christmas season I constructed in my head and enjoy the season God has chosen to give me, even though it's not shaping up to look like the one I'd planned.

The beauty is that in embracing the reality of Today, I don't miss the things that don't happen (or don't happen like I planned). As Jesus directs my path, I find unexpected gifts. Peace. Enjoying the moment. Laughter with my husband. A day of Christmas decorating that went in a direction I never dreamed of, but was oh-so-good in the end. The shattered pieces of my plans have been swept out in the trash...but the wholeness, beauty, and joy He gives in exchange are sweeter than anything I can imagine.


  1. I think we are more close to perfect when we are simply trying not to be and just following that path that God leads us on, because after all his path, his plan, is perfect. I can definitely say I'm in the same boat with you at times, but I always drive myself crazy when it comes to meeting my own perfect expectations. God's is so much more full of peace.
    Beautiful post, Nikki thanks for being so open in sharing, I know so many of us can relate and I hope your Christmas season is more than you ever dreamed of :)

  2. First I was laughing about the bird food and then read's completely gorgeous. I have been on my own journey of learning this Advent. Reading yours was so lovely and beautiful. Thank you!

    (PS I really love the photo, too. )

  3. Reading this made me cry. I am so here right now. And you are so right, it's in the letting go, that we see Jesus and find true joy and beauty and life.

    Thank you for sharing this glimpse from your beautiful heart. I really needed this today. Thank you my precious + dearly missed friend.