I’m a recovering perfectionist.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve been dancing this particular step called Not Good Enough: Not tall enough, not cute enough, not social enough, not ‘Whatever’ enough. And I spent a lot of years blaming it on my dad and his perfectionist ways.
In my early adolescent memories, I have these laser-sharp images of my dad listening to me play the piano, and at the end of each song he’d say, “That was beautiful, honey, but you could have…” Then he would critique whatever it was that he thought could have been better.
I never heard the “That was beautiful, honey.” I never heard the love in his voice, or see the pure enjoyment on his face when I played. I never heard the heart that was giving me the highest praise of trusting me with gentle suggestions. I only heard, “It’s not good enough.” I only heard “You should have…” Consequently, I spent a lot of years trying to play that perfect song for him.
I never did.
After a while, I just stopped trying. Instead, I got A’s in school to try to tip the perfection scales in my favor. But by then, Dad was preoccupied with plans of his retirement, and not quite the gung-ho cheerleader for good grades that he had once been.
And to be honest? I was done. I thumbed my nose at all things Dad thought perfect: Catholicism, Education, Order. I didn’t even fight for “Better” anymore. Instead, I fought for “Why try?” and “Who the hell cares anyway?” I became the perfect rebel that didn’t care.
But the sad truth was I did care. I always cared. And the sad truth was it wasn’t Dad’s perfectionism anymore, it was my own. I just didn’t know it.
So outwardly I rebelled, but secretly I strove for Perfect in those deep-down dark places where no one would see the desperation of how much I cared. And when I couldn’t find perfection in me, I tried to find it in experiences. And when that failed, I looked to others. And when people failed, all I was left with was a bankrupt soul. Imperfect. Ugly. And flat on my face.
And it was there on my face, he found me– my Prince Charming, my sweet, Nazarene rebel. He took my “Not Good Enough” monster and slayed him right in front of my eyes. It was there, he lifted my face, and showed me Love in those big, brown, beautiful, caring, Mideastern eyes . . . with not even the teensiest hint of critique.
It was there I finally found all the perfection I would ever need.
It’s been thirty years since then. Everything changed that day, and yet sometimes it feels like nothing changed. I’m still Jane. I still wrestle the monsters that shout, “Not good enough.” I shake my fist at this fallen, imperfect world, all the while reflecting its ugliness every time I judge, or point my finger, or shake my head and mutter in self-righteous indignity.
And I still try too hard to play that perfect song for my Dad again …
But then comes that gentle suggestion that whispers I might be judging my heavenly Dad the way I used to judge my earthly one. I am reminded that God isn’t waiting to hear a perfect song, or critique an imperfect life, and he isn’t occupied with thoughts of retirement — Instead, He’s waiting with love in His voice and enjoyment on His face.
He’s waiting to help me find my way to that simple Bethlehem stable, hoping I’ll unwrap again the Love that lay bundled in the manger.
The unbelievable Truth is:
He waits for me, and He waits for you, every moment of every day.
Perfect Love. Perfect Peace. . . The Perfect Gift.
And for this recovering perfectionist, this is definitely news of great joy!
Merry Christmas everyone.