THE ILLUSION OF PERFECTION
By Cathy Bryant, © 2012
Picture-perfect images stare back at us from the glossy pages of magazines. Television commercials glamorize flawless skin, bodies, and hair. Every advertisement promises perfection of some sort. The messages from our culture range from “pull yourself up by the boot straps” to “be all you can be.” No wonder we’re a stressed-out and sleepless society. The chase for perfection seems to invade every aspect of our lives.
Everywhere we turn in our world, we’re prompted to do better, to be better, and I think this is especially true for women. I’m reminded of the joke where the middle-aged woman looks in the mirror and stresses out over her appearance. “I need a better haircut. I have a new wrinkle. I need to lose ten more pounds.” Then the middle-aged man looks in the mirror, slaps his pot belly, and says: “Looking good!”
All joking aside, why do we have the tendency to feel better about ourselves by keeping some semblance of the perfect plan we’ve had tucked in our brains since we were little girls? Somewhere along the way our plans for the perfect wedding, perfect house, perfect spouse, perfect marriage, perfect children, and perfect career take on a life of their own. And even though reality may be a far cry from our perfect ideal, we do all we can to keep the image alive.
Sadly, the illusion of perfection slithers into our spiritual life as well. We become good little rules-keepers, as if spiritual success is something we achieve through our own efforts. Without warning, we one day wake up and realize our perfect world consists of little more than plastic people living plastic lives.
What a waste of grace! In our futile pursuit of perfection, we miss so much. We miss the peace that comes from resting in who God made us to be and not some Stepford-wife version we think everyone else expects. We miss the joy of seeing ourselves and others—flaws and all—as the unique Creation of God we are. We miss the blessing of realizing grace is a gift, based not on our performance or appearance, but on God’s everlasting love.
Though it’s taken me half a century to arrive here, I’m delighted to report that this perfectionist is on the road to recovery. For the rest of my days, I’m unshackling myself from the illusion of earthly perfection, secure in the knowledge that close communion with Christ is the only chance I have of reaching true perfection. Wanna join me?
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. -2 Corinthians 3:18 (NASB)
(Book 3 in the Miller’s Creek novels)
In pursuit of justice, in need of grace . . .
Thanks, Cathy, for sharing your heart with us today!
"large fitness man" Image credit: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/photo_10943702_large-fitness-man-with-measuring-tape-isolated-in-white.html'>luislouro / 123RF Stock Photo</a> All other images courtesy of Cathy Bryant