Grace. What does this word even mean? I toss this word “grace” out to people like it’s candy at a parade, without really understanding the magnitude of this small & mighty 5 letter word. The definition I memorized as a young Southern Baptist daughter was, “undeserved forgiveness.” While I understood salvation was extended through grace rather than a performance report card, and it was necessary to bestow grace to others, I had no idea I it was equally as important to extend it to myself. For a perfectionist, extending and receiving grace to oneself is a big pill to swallow.
Yes, I am a perfectionist. Maybe you knew this about me, maybe you didn’t. Maybe you can relate or know someone who can, but I didn’t learn this about myself until two years ago. TWO YEARS AGO! For 25 years I have been in total denial that what drove me to action was this idea of doing everything RIGHT.
It wasn’t until things started to crumble in uncontrollable areas of my life I was met with this confronting reality. No matter how well I follow the rules, doctors orders, or live a life above reproach I may not get the results I want. WHAT!? How could this be? I could do everything “right” and still be dealt a lousy outcome!?
You know you have some perfectionism in you when your response to an undesired outcome is retracing your steps to troubleshoot a situation clearly outside your control. This has been me. Walking aimlessly in discouragement, weak and frustrated trying to find the missed opportunity. The unfortified wall. The overlooked mistake. Where did I mess up!? Was my faith not strong enough? Should I have prayed longer or harder? How could I have handled this better?
I found myself so deflated in my faith and then frustrated over my discouragement and questions… this couldn’t possibly be the mindset of someone covered by grace. If I understood the Grace of God, gifted to me, why couldn’t I understand how to extend it to myself. This was the issue, accepting the gift.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.” -Lam 3:22-23
If our perfect God can cover us in grace & grant new mercies each and every morning, then why is it so difficult to start a NEW day, with no residue from yesterday. Friends, instead of beating ourselves up when we fall short, let’s rejoice in the grace we could never earn, and yet somehow has the power to wash us off and grant us the ability to move on! Yes, I said it, MOVE ON!
I take Buddy on 2-3 walks a day. He is usually really great about staying the course, but every now and then his wonderlust causes him to dart off the path in pursuit of a squirrel, to investigate road kill or sniff out some other dogs poop. Grose. “LEAVE IT!” I command him accompanied by a tug of the leash. This got me thinking, how many times does the Lord tug on my heart and say, “Dusti, Leave It!” Perfectionism can inhibit us from moving forward, but Grace allows us to stop sniffing out our shortfalls and get back on the path. Perfectionism can tie us to our mistakes, our lack, our guilt, but Grace tells us there is beauty up ahead.
Don’t get me wrong, living with a standard of excellence is not a bad thing, in fact, I dare to say it’s admirable… so long as we perfectionists understand how to extend ourselves grace when we fall shy of our idea of perfection.
Jesus gifts us with a fresh outpouring of grace every morning, enough to accept for ourselves and to share with others…
So to my fellow perfectionists:
Grace when we don’t get it right.
Grace over our process.
Grace when we can’t please everyone.
Grace over valid emotions.
Grace over unanswered prayers.
Grace for not being able to make sense of it.
Grace over the feeling of discouragement.
Grace over our sin.
Grace over our phantom fears.
Grace over our unbelief.
Grace over our questions.
Grace to forgive ourselves.
Grace to move on.
“Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;–Grace Greater than Our Sin | Julia H. Johnston
Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that is greater than all our sin!
Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.“