Wanting things to be “perfect”

You know how it is when company’s coming. Though you always want to keep your house to a certain level of cleanliness, and you do esteem your family members above everyone else, there is just something about having company that sets off a housecleaning frenzy.

I learned long ago that I can’t usually get everything done that I’d like to do before company comes, so I’ve learned how to prioritize and hit the most important things first. If I have enough warning, sometimes I can get some of those long overdue household projects done as well.

But no matter how much I do, it seems there is always something I miss. Recently a friend of my son and daughter-in-law’s was in town visiting them, and I invited them all over for dinner one night. I was rejoicing in getting just about everything done that I wanted to before she came. Dinner was not quite ready when they got here (because I decided I needed to vacuum my room before I started dinner, even though it was unlikely she would go in there. It had been needing it anyway and it was a relief of mind to get it done). They offered to help and set the table, but dinner was just a matter of waiting on things to cook through. While they waited, our guest played some different hymns on the piano. It rejoiced my heart to hear the piano in there again: no one had played in months since we let Jesse drop out of lessons this year. We enjoyed a nice time of fellowship later with dinner.

The next day, I was picking up some things in the living room when I noticed some scattered debris on the piano next to the keys. “What in the world…?” I thought. I had just dusted it the day before. As I drew closer to inspect it, I saw it was needles from the fir Christmas tree. From last December. On my piano in May. We had had the cover over the piano keys closed for so long, I didn’t even think to open it to dust under there. And there it was for our guest to discover!

That reminded me of another time in early married years when we wanted to have the youth group over after church one Sunday night. We had furiously cleaned the day before until everything was gleaming. As the young people came in and then started singing, my eyes strayed behind them to the bookcase, on top of which was the can of dusting spray, on top of which was the dustrag, which happened to be an old pair of my husband’s underwear with the distinctive waistband showing. I was mortified, but I couldn’t do anything about it: if I went toward it to remove it, all eyes would see and notice it then. So I just left it and hoped no one saw it. If they did, they were too polite to say so. I couldn’t do anything but laugh about it afterward, since there was no way to correct it.

I’ve had what sometimes seems like more than my share of laughable, imperfect cooking experiences from disastrous cakes to green gravy to volcanic teriyaki.

I was reading a book on hospitality once where the author wrote about a time when she had a bit of time to relax, so she sat on the sofa and read the newspaper. Then someone came to the door, and when she answered it she saw it was an acquaintance who had dropped by unexpectedly. The author was embarrassed that things weren’t “picked up,” but invited her guest in anyway. When the guest saw the scattered newspapers, she smiled and said something like, “Now we can be friends.” When people are “perfect,” we can’t quite relate to them and they can even seem unapproachable. But when we see they have the same struggles we do, then they are more genuine to us and we can interact with them more comfortably.

Years ago when I first joined the TMIC, I wanted to be a good testimony there. It’s frowned upon to use such a forum as a “bully pulpit,” and I didn’t want to do that, anyway. But I did want to honestly relate how God helped me and I wanted to be a light for Him there. Because of that, I tried to keep my posts upbeat and hopeful. Some months later another Christian lady joined, and I was blessed by how honest she was about her struggles. She wasn’t morose or complaining, but she shared her everyday struggles as well as her faith. I e-mailed her privately about how refreshing her posts were, and she wrote back that it wouldn’t pay to hide her struggles. By sharing that she struggled with the same things everyone else did, she was more genuine and had more of an open door.

In the chapter “Women of Like Passions” from her book Keep a Quiet Heart, Elisabeth Elliot wrote of a woman at a conference who had asked to speak to her, but was hesitant to “bother” her and was a little afraid of her. Elisabeth agreed to speak with her and tried to reassure her, and later the leader of the conference told Elisbaeth that the woman had told her, “Oh, it wasn’t bad after all! I walked in–I was shaking. I looked into her eyes, and I knew that she, too, had suffered. Then she gave me this beautiful smile. When I saw that huge space between her front teeth, I said to myself, ‘it’s OK–she’s not perfect!'”

Then in the same chapter she wrote of a time when her daughter, Valerie, was speaking, lost her place in her notes, and after a long, awkward time span of not being able to find it again, did the best she could ad-libbing the rest. She was nearly in tears as she finished, but afterward one person told her it was the best class so far and another thanked her for what she had said that helped her. Later she told her mother, “I couldn’t understand why this had happened. I had prepared faithfully, done the best I could. But then I remembered a prayer I’d prayed that week (Walt told me it was a ridiculous prayer!)–asking the Lord to make those women know that I’m just an ordinary woman like the rest of them and I need His help. I guess this was His answer, don’t you think?”

We need to let go of perfectionism. Who are we trying to fool, anyway? We so want for things to be “just right” when we have company or have an event. And that’s a worthy desire. It shows care for the guests and care for one’s home and surroundings. I’ve been in places where there was no such care, and they were uncomfortable places to be. But we don’t need to beat ourselves up when things aren’t “perfect” even when we’ve done our best. It helps to just laugh at ourselves (with others, if they’re aware), learn from the situation (next time I will lift the piano key cover and dust under there!), and, for serious offenses, go to Jesus for cleansing and restoration. Even though He is perfect, He is approachable because He bore our sin and its punishment so that we could be forgiven. We can never be perfect on our own, but by His grace we can be washed white as snow, pure and spotless.

For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.  For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour (help, aid) them that are tempted. Hebrews 2:16-18.

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16.

14 thoughts on “Wanting things to be “perfect”

  1. Very good reminders, Barbara! I laughed so hard about the dusting spray and “dust cloth” – that is so like something that would happen to me! LOL

    My husband taught a couple of months ago about how Jesus still loves us even when we aren’t perfect. One verse that came to my mind was Romans 8:1 – “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus . . .” I realized that when I compare myself to others, I feel inadequate and sometimes like a failure; but when I compare myself to Jesus, even though I will never reach His perfection, I don’t feel condemnation or failure from Him. For the first time in my life, I felt I had a deeper understanding of that verse! I know that its primary application is to my sin being forgiven, but I believe God brought it to my mind to reassure me that He knows I’m just dust, and He loves me and accepts me anyway.

  2. LOL I remember a post from last year when I think it was a friend of Jesse’s that came over and you did a post about getting the house ready. Something along those lines anyway this reminded me of that. I’m glad you aren’t perfect myself. A perfect person is so just what’s the word…BORING!!! pffft We do the best we can and that’s all anyone can expect and if they do expect more oh well…my famous words BITE ME!!! ROFLMAO!!!

  3. Oh Barbara, I just can’t tell you how very much this post ministered to me. I struggle so with perfectionism, and it certainly isn’t a help! I especially liked this part: “We need to let go of perfectionism. Who are we trying to fool, anyway?”

    Thanks so much and have a wonderful evening♥

  4. Two Sundays ago I was accompanying the special music, a trio, at church. They had just asked me to do so on Friday night, and I didn’t have much time to practice as we were going out of town Saturday. I did practice it as much as possible – it was a beautiful piece, but the introduction was extremely hard. I practiced some more during SS, but our new pastor came in and was talking, and I didn’t want to cut him off.

    Anyway – to make a long story short – I completely bombed the intro. I’ve messed up plenty of times in the past on things, but could always find my place and get back into whatever it was. I simply could not get back into it. I finally said “Can we please start over?” It was mortifying. Sunday morning church!!! It was humbling. It was good for me, much as I hated it.

  5. I don’t even try to be perfect anymore, but I do strive to get as close as I can while avoiding a nervous breakdown. I do remember though when instances like the one you described would have mortified me for weeks.

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  7. How funny that my FFF mentioned this very thing. Perhaps that’s because it’s on my mind as I prepare for the entire family to drop on my doorstep for my son’s graduation.

    I needed to read this today…thank you!

  8. I have given up trying to be perfect. I just do my best and forget the rest. I’m happier that way and cause less misery to the people around me. LOL

  9. Barbara ~ This year I am trying to model “authentic” and “real” to those women within my sphere of influence. One of the things I’ve done is have gals in my home for meetings and such. I breathe fast sometimes but I’ve made it so far. I am learning to let go. I have missed fellowship and friendship by keeping friends out of my home. I am who I am. I’m working in my strengths instead of trying to “improve” my weaknesses.

    Blessings, e-friend!

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