The Cross of Perfection
Growing up, I heard this often:
If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.
What, you, too?
For as far back, and forward, as I can remember success equaled perfection. And vice versa. It’s been this pursuit of perfection that has driven me to try new things, but more often than not, it’s my downfall. Or, more appropriately, my cross.
Maybe it’s yours, too.
We live in this world that tells us to be a perfect wife, you must have a perfect marriage and perfect children. Your house must be perfect. Your liturgical celebrations and how you make your house a home must be perfect. Dogs, shoes, makeup, body image, cooking skills and everything in between? Perfect.
I think we tell ourselves we’re okay with imperfection as we madly try to be perfect. Much like the duck analogy. Above the water, they glide along with barely any effort, while underneath they’re paddling like hell.
About a month ago, I ordered the Blessed is She Advent journal in hopes that it might kickstart my preparation for Christmas. I had no idea the things it would do to my heart in the process. Writing is my outlet, always has been. But this kind of journaling was different. It was real and raw. I’m sharing things on those pages I cannot share anywhere else. Like, the kind of honest that if other people read they might be shocked.
Or maybe not.
Then came a talk at our parish from Christopher West about the endless search for fulfillment in this finite world. I could feel a part of my heart really hearing his words, but hesitant. A few days later, I found myself in the confessional, with a screaming toddler on my lap, no less, and a very reassuring priest sitting across from me.
“I’m so sorry she’s crying,” I apologized. “Don’t be silly. It’s what kids do,” he replied with a smile. And then we had this beautiful discussion about motherhood. And imperfections. And me expecting perfection in my relationships with other people, all while expecting it from myself, too. In the paraphrased words of a good friend, I was expecting things of people that they could not give.
Michael Jackson once said, “My mother’s wonderful. To me, she’s perfection.”
Isn’t that lovely?
At the end of it all, I want my kids to know how much they’re loved. I want my husband to know he’s cherished. I want my friends to feel valued. In the moments that have really changed and shaped me, it wasn’t the perfection of the moment, but the honesty of it all. I was changed by the raw vulnerability of people I loved and respected because they were real. Not because they were perfect.
So I keep reminding myself of that beauty. I’ll keep vacuuming my carpet and washing my kitchen sink full of dishes, taking a shower and tidying up the house – it’s just who I am.
But as we continue our preparation for a perfect Savior, I want to remember it’s not in the perfection of how well I prepare, but the fact that I’m doing it at all. Every day that I’m more honest with myself, every morning that I spend just a few moments in prayer, every night when I thank God for the lessons of the day, I want to open my heart to the realness of His presence.
He loves me, and all my imperfect hot-mess self, because He is God. And I am not.
If you’re feeling like you’re failing at Advent – or life in general – I’m here to tell you it’s never too late. Set aside whatever cross you’re carrying and sit with his love for just a moment. Or more.
Advent blessings to each of you…
I went to confession on Saturday and the priest said we must humble ourselves completely, just as Mary did, in order to fully receive Jesus. It really has stuck with me and caused me to reflect on that. So many good things come out of going to confession even though my stomach is in knots every time I go : )
By the Manger in the Morning is no joke. I’m almost fearful to sit down and do it each morning because it is forcing me to look so deeply into the little explored crevices of my heart. There’s already been growth, and some healing, a softening taking place. I’ll keep walking along this path until Christmas. It is truly a blessing to be walking in community.
“I want my kids to know how much they’re loved. I want my husband to know he’s cherished. I want my friends to feel valued. In the moments that have really changed and shaped me, it wasn’t the perfection of the moment, but the honesty of it all. I was changed by the raw vulnerability of people I loved and respected because they were real. Not because they were perfect.” SO TRUE!
These words – because they were real. not because they were perfect – are so true for any number of situations. A wedding, a party, a lunch date, a school fundraiser, you name it. Thank you for sharing your heart and helping me to reflect on the very same.
I have to agree about the Blessed is She Advent journal. Every morning I’m thinking “wow, really?!” I feel like it’s opened so much of me up. It can be a blessing but also pretty hard. Sometimes seeing the not-perfect-picture is hard. Especially in a social media driven world where the “perfect” pictures is the only thing acceptable.
Wonderfully written and “perfectly” timed. Thank you!
Amen. Much to learn here.