There was a (long) period in my life when I attempted to surround myself with perfection. I believed that if I said and did the right things, participated in enough bible studies, hung out with religious people—eventually I would succumb to perfection. I would radiate goodness. I would appear unblemished. Instead, I wore myself out. I was suffocating on the inside while wearing a perfectly glossed smile on the outside.
I forgot one simple truth: I was not called to be perfect.
Instead, I was called to clothe myself in grace. I was called to cling to hope faith and love. I was called to press onward.
One of my favorite bible verses is Philippians 3:14 “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
To “Press On” literally means to: carry on, make progress, persevere, not give up, struggle on, forge ahead and stay the course. These words conjure up images of a long and sometimes turbulent road…not a sophisticated and perfect journey.
Perfection is the greatest obstacle to our goal of the ultimate, glorious prize.
Making room for grace
Recently, I overheard parents complaining about kids who attend Christian colleges and make “poor immoral choices” and “compromise a biblical worldview” after leaving the nest. Please. What seventeen or eighteen-year old truly grasps everything about faith and worldview the moment they leave home?
When parents continued with, “Where are the RA’s and RD’s?” I wanted to hurl my notebook at their ignorant heads. As if an RA or RD are perfect and sinless and have all the answers. I should know. I was a pregnant RA at a Christian college who hid my pregnancy out of shame and fear of being expelled from not just my school, but my Christian community.
When my pregnancy was finally discovered, my RD accused me of many things, including sleeping around…and worse. There was no grace. No helping hand. No extension of love. I’ve heard it said before: Only Christians shoot their own. But it shouldn’t be this way.
I have a tender spot for college students and young adults as they navigate life and all its joys and complications and celebrations and heart breaks. As young adults struggle to find themselves and grapple with self-identity, they don’t need a drawn-out lecture, shaming session or even another bible study added to their busy schedule. They need an extra measure of grace.
Love on them. Walk alongside them. Give them gentle guidance but don’t condemn. They don’t need to be reminded of any internal angst. Tell them they are worthy. Tell them they are a child of God. Tell them they are loved. Tell them they are enough.
(Note: I’m not advocating for a free pass to destructive behaviors—I’m referring to how we approach those who experience moderate bumps along their journey).
The problem with judgment
I’m always surprised when judgment is given a voice. It amazes me when others feel they have a right to condemn when they haven’t walked in my shoes. Judgment is like seeing half the picture. You don’t know the full story. Perspective is blurred.
I’ve done my fair share of throwing stones. I’ve called someone out on their sin…only to struggle with the exact same thing months, even years later. Go figure.
Recently, I learned that the authority figure in college who made horrible accusations toward me when she discovered my pregnancy—was doing the EXACT things she was accusing me of. That epiphany didn’t make my book. These are not roots of any anger or resentment or bitterness. I mention this only to say: I wish she’d just told me she was struggling, too. I wish I’d known that I wasn’t alone in my fears or doubts or guilt. Our battles may have been different ones—but they were battles nonetheless.
And if I ever run into her today—I promise not to point the finger. Instead, I’d give her a hug, let her know I care, and tell her I’m sorry for the difficult road she endured. Because that’s what I needed to hear once upon a time.
It’s okay to stumble
“Never let a stumble in the road be the end of the journey” ~ unknown
I’ve come to point where I don’t avoid the obstacles in the road. The crazy bends and sudden forks don’t scare me as much as they used to. The best part about stumbling? Is the opportunity to get up and try again. To see the road from a different angle. To find meaning in the journey.
I’ve said it before: I want my kids to have the opportunity to stumble. Hear me out on this one. When you stumble, you have to grasp onto something. You have to cling to faith. You have to hold onto hope. When things are going perfect—the meaning of grace and mercy can be lost. Faith feels insignificant.
I’m not saying I want my children to fall hard by any stretch. But I’d rather them know what its like to cling to faith and reach out for a Savior rather than seeking a life that’s faultless and without mistake.
A stumble in the road isn’t the end of the journey—its the beginning of your beautiful transformation.
The end goal isn’t to obtain a certain measure of perfection—at least in this life time. Our goal should be to model Christ’s love. To extend grace at a moment’s notice. To avoid judgments and heartless condemnation. To walk alongside someone when they stumble. And to help them get back up when they fall.
Perfection…this is where we part ways for good.