Thursday, January 26, 2012

the antidote for perfectionism

{To read the previous post in this series, click here...}
Last year, with Ann, was my Year of Here, and I did live more fully in the moment than I ever have.  But still there were these unreasonable explosions, this discontent, this striving - even striving to list 1000 gifts in December before the New Year, hoping that filling this task would bring me joy.  
It’s this drive to be perfect, this striving and pressure, that I hate in myself -  especially what it does to me and others.  But I don’t know how to get rid of it.  

One afternoon a few weeks ago, thinking forward into 2012, I reluctantly wrote these words in my journal:
Besetting sins:  
It is a sin, after all, not just a nice way of saying I’m devoted to excellence.  Perfectionism is a sin because it leads to other sins - blame-shifting, defensiveness, stress-imposing, anger, resentment, pride.  
And the root of this sin of mine? 
The idol of feeling competent and perfect.  
Instead of Christ, that is what my self-worth and sense of well-being is truly wrapped around.  As soon as I feel like I’m failing in any way, as soon as my competence is threatened, I explode.  (A sure symptom of idolatry.)

Almost the moment I realized this, I felt the Holy Spirit give me a name for this new year: 
The Year of Letting Go.
(The Year of Open Hands)
(The Year of Gentle Weaving)
(The Year of Surrendered Living)
(The Year of Trusting)
The year of opening my hands.  Of letting go of stress.  Of releasing expectations on myself and others.  Scary.  It totally threatens my idolatrous need to feel competent and in control.  

But then, thoughts and images started moving through my mind, hope-filled Spirit-thoughts.  A glimmer of light.   
If you let go, Carolyn, the pressure is off and you could ask nicely without demanding.  (Hmmm... my husband and I have had lots of conversations about this one… maybe this is the key?)
If you let go, the pressure is off and you could reach freely for goals without straining or pushing.  (More likely to reach them, and the process would be a whole lot healthier and more joyful...)
If you let go, you could relax and let Me lead you into what to do next(The whole weaving thing again.)
If you let go, you could choose to do one thing at a time and focus on doing it well, rather than forcing yourself to finish everything on your list and stressing yourself out (and everyone else).
Ok, Lord.  You’re convincing me.  The Year of Letting Go.  That still sounds, and feels... scary.

Really?  asks the still small Voice in my heart.  What exactly are you afraid of?
Um... Truthfully?  -wince-  I’m afraid that if I let go, You-won’t-come-through-for-me, and I’ll-have-an-unfulfilled-year-with-unmet-expectations.  (Whew! I can’t believe I admitted that!)
Hmm.  So the bottom line is… trust.  Isn’t it.  You. don’t. trust. that I will be all I say I Am.  You don’t trust that My plan is More Perfect than yours.
Wow.  -silence-   
Really?  I really don't trust You, Lord?  After all I’ve seen You do in my life?   That’s pretty ridiculous.  But, well, yeah… when you put it like that, I guess I don’t.  I really am hanging on to my plan, my goals, my expectations for myself, tighter than I’m hanging on to you.  
I thought you were letting go of your expectations.
Well, yes, but… how?  I desperately scribble questions across the page.  Aren’t expectations natural?  And needed?  How can I help having expectations?  How do I let go of my expectations?  And if I let go of them, how do I move forward without goals and the pressure to meet them?  How do I grow?  

Stop.  Tell Me some good, reasonable, macro-expectations you can have for 2012.  Better yet, let Me tell you.

(And here’s where my jaw started dropping, and the joy started welling deep…)
That God will do God-sized things.
That God will grow me, my husband and my children in the specific ways He wants to, for our good and His glory.
That God will bring His Kingdom on this earth, through me, our marriage, our family, and our ministry.
That God will show His passionate love for me daily in beautiful, unexpected ways.
That my husband will stay utterly faithful to loving me, like the God he loves so deeply and completely.
That my God will supply all my needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
That peace will be mine, which passes understanding.
Wow.  I started to breathe faster, deeper.  
If I can relax into those expectations, and trust that they will be met, because of Who God is, not because of who I am or what I can do… 
and if I can let go of everything else and trust the Weaver to tell me what threads to weave… 
what a year this will be!  
So what’s the antidote for perfectionism?  


Letting go of expectations.

And expecting God to be God.

* * * 

Resonating yet?

What is one "good, reasonable" God-founded macro-expectation you can have for 2012?


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