As I stare in the mirror for the millionth time since waking up this morning. I search for any imperfections that may glare back at me and I find them. My nose is shiny which constantly vexes me. My foundation looks blotchy in a spot which I try to fix for a good five minutes before resigning in defeat. My bangs didn’t straighten the way I wanted this morning so I pull a bottle of hairspray from my desk and attack the stray hairs like I’ve done every other day for what seems like a lifetime. Bit by bit I try my best to fix all my issues in the five minutes I have before my students return from lunch…BUT WHY? Why do we chase perfection? Better yet why do we so often require it of ourselves in a way that we would NEVER require it of another?
This question must be on a lot of women’s minds recently because I’ve seen multiple posts on various social media platforms this week reassuring us that it is okay to not be perfect..to allow yourself to be real...to be genuine. Why on earth do we have to grant ourselves permission to be real? What happened in the course of humanity to require this? Don’t you wonder at what point Eve looked at her reflection in the river and thought, “Where did that wobbly bit come from?” or “Oh dear, I’m beginning to look old.” We know prior to the fall, Adam and Eve didn’t even know they were naked and yet now we run around hiding behind clothes, plastic surgeries and Snapchat filters. So what gives?
At least in my case, I think the answer is two fold. One, I judge myself harshly and assume others do as well. Two, I view the concept of my value through worldly eyes not through the Lord’s truth. Here’s the thing...I don’t think this is MY issue but rather an issue that many women struggle with and have struggled with since Satan introduced Eve to discontentment and discouragement. The way it manifests in your life may look a little different but in reality the root cause is probably the same so let’s take a look at how this plays out in our daily life.
First, let’s talk about how we are our own worst critics and the world knows that and Satan uses it against us. Just take a look at any news stand or social media outlet. There is no doubt that mainstream media has learned to feed into our fears. Just clicking on the Trending page of YouTube brings up videos titled “ 7 Style Mistakes Every Teen Makes”, “My Three Hour Beauty Routine” and “Secrets to Make Him Want You”. I guarantee if you grabbed a Cosmo the articles would sound the same, as would many Instagram and Facebook posts. We live in a world of filters, some real and some self imposed. Sure, we filter our faces to smooth wrinkles but we also use a filter of sorts on our houses, lives, kids and pets. We see people on Facebook displaying their perfect Honor Roll kids, with their perfect Better Homes and Garden House and their amazingly well-trained German Shepherd which is all just the cherry on the cake of their perfect marriage in which they have NEVER had a fight. You know the people I’m talking about and maybe because they feel the need to share absolutely everything they feel it has to be produced like a reality television show...special effects and all! Or maybe like me, they judge themselves harshly and assume others are as well so the more perfect the image the less to judge.
But you and I know that there is no truth in that image and the reality of trying to be perfect is absolutely exhausting. I don’t care how well-behaved your honor student is...all kids do stupid stuff! I’m a teacher. I hear EVERYTHING and then some. I was the most honor rolly, goody good of goody two shoes who lived in fear of disappointing my parents ever and I still made real dumb decisions. I also know that if I want my house to look like a Pinterest board on the regular I will have to live in my car. You can’t have kids and pets and laundry and still have a perfect house... not if you want your sanity. I also know that no matter how well-trained your German Shepherd is he can still eat the knob off a door in the time it takes you to walk to the mailbox and back. That’s life and to be frank it makes the living far more interesting.
But let’s look beyond how exhausting and unrealistic it is and look at how we don’t typically require the same perfection from others. I’ve never walked into a lived in house and thought “Oh my! They have dishes in the sink.” or “ Look at those toys on the floor.” and I’m pretty sure no one else has ever thought that walking into my house but we still feel the pressure. I never look at a woman at the gym and questioned her fashion or makeup choices but I question mine all the time. And I’m pretty certain that no man has ever decided NOT to ask a woman out because she wore her hair in a bun or had dark polish on her nails. In the end, if he ain’t the one, he ain’t the one! And if he is your hair and nails won’t matter. Not only is it crazy to worry about such minute details but how egocentric for us (read me) to think anyone gives a flying flip what our hair looks like at the gym! We are all suffering through the Burpees and we only care about breathing!!! You could look like Uncle Fester and I wouldn’t notice.
Now, let’s talk about the second issue of how we view our value. Once again, if you look to mainstream culture for reassurance on your value you are going to be hard pressed to find any truth but that’s because the world doesn’t judge as the Lord (i.e. YOUR CREATOR) judges. Remember in the Old Testament when Samuel arrived to anoint one of Jesse’s sons and he saw Eliab and thought he looked like a King so he assumed he must be the one and the Lord shot that idea down real quick. As 1 Samuel 16:7 says, ““Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” That right there says it all! The Lord doesn’t look on us as we are and certainly doesn’t view us from the outside. Can I get a THANK YOU and AMEN?!?!
God looks on us as a father looks down on his child and even better as Christians he sees us THROUGH Christ. Cleansed. Adopted. Redeemed. There’s an old Calvin Hunt song that perfectly sums up how the Lord views us…
“Beautiful, that's how mercy saw me,
For I was broken and so lost;
Mercy looked at all my faults.
Justice of God saw what I had done,
But mercy saw me through the Son;
Not what I was but what I could be,
That's how mercy saw me!”
Not only does that concept make me want to shout for joy, it also makes me breathe a sigh of relief. I don’t always stop to consider how the Lord views me and unfortunately, I take for granted that he is my loving, Abba Father but wow! What a truly amazing and liberating fact that is! Oh the freedom that comes with knowing our true value lies not in our abilities or failures but rather in the sacrifice of Christ and the gift he has given us!
Satan has spent the better part of a few centuries trying to convince us that we have no value and are powerless. The old idea that since he can’t steal us from the hand of God he will make us as unuseful as possible while we’re on earth still rings true. He does his darnest to debilitate our lives with worry or exhaust us with the pursuit of the unimportant in the hopes that we will miss our purpose and you know what? He’s good! He’s real good! However, in spite of Satan’s scare tactics, the world’s crushing criticisms and our own warped sense of self the Lord sees us as more. He sees us as worthy of love, worthy of hope and worthy of sacrifice. (“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-- even death on a cross!” Phililppians 2:8)
So the next time you find yourself chasing perfection, stop and remember that you need only be perfect before the God of the universe, which is an impossible task. However, He lovingly sent a perfect sacrifice to take your place! No perfection needed! (“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8)
God has a great sense of humor… Many, many moons ago, when I was young, foolish and extremely concerned that I was taller than most men in heels I knew a guy who was nearly a foot taller than me. He had some great qualities but also some major concerns but in my mind he was TALL so that seemed like a win. I was praying about him one morning before I started my quiet time and I asked the Lord to direct my heart concerning the Jolly Green Giant because I knew I wasn’t viewing things clearly. So naturally my devotion was on 1 Samuel 16. Let me tell you! When I got to verse seven I just sat there and laughed to myself for a solid five minutes. Don’t tell me the Lord doesn’t answer prayers! Luckily I learned my lesson and no longer concern myself with such trivial things dating or otherwise. And remember the awesome and amazing things the Lord has in store for you may not always look like you’re expecting!