Perfect, everything has to be perfect:
Before the birthday party begins, everything needs to be perfectly set up…
Before I apply for a job, my resume has to be perfect…
Before I do anything, I have to get everything perfectly ready…
Perfectionism, it’s something that plagues most, if not all, of us in one way or another. From the time we are little children we are taught to keep trying to improve; we are given the impression that what we’ve done simply isn’t good enough.
I understand the importance of making preparations (Luke 14:28), working to improve and do our best, but at the end of the day there’s no way to be perfect or to predict everything that will happen along our journeys in life. There’s never enough experience or money to do everything in our hearts when we start. We never have enough money to go to university, get married or have children. When we had our first child, I am sure everyone thought we were out of our minds. We had no money, no savings, no experience, but we wanted to start a family and we had NO IDEA how much it would cost to raise a family. How our oldest children have grown up and are now on their own astounds me. How did God manage that? Where did He get the money because we certainly didn’t see it in our bank account.
Thinking back to when we first left for Africa, I wonder how well we “counted the cost” of what the call would cost. No amount of preparation could have made us ready for the things we have faced over the years. We had 3 years of service on staff at our home church and had some Bible college under our belts (we both finished our Master’s Degrees later on) when we began our internship in Zaire (DRC). We spent 3 years serving under Ralph and Shirley Hagemeier, learning about missions service. It was the best 3-year investment of our lives; it set our course for the years to come.
Well-meaning organizations set certain guidelines for their missionaries to follow and fill before even being considered for overseas service. I understand the reasoning behind all the requirements, as cracks in our lives turn into large crevices under the pressure of the foreign field. There needs to be a time of preparation and internship for any kind of ministry position. As prepared as we felt once our 3 years with the Hagemeiers was finished, we still had no idea what we were going to face in the years to come. Had we known, I doubt we would’ve had the courage to run the race.
For a brief season in my life I worked in insurance and learned that there are “actuaries” who are professionals that try to figure out the costs involved in insuring people. It would appear that they’ve all fallen very short of counting how much it will cost to insure the health of millions. It may seem that they haven’t done well with their figures but truth be told, they didn’t have enough information to figure costs in the unstable insurance atmosphere that has settled in the USA in the past 20+ years. 20+ years ago, it would have been extremely difficult to envision today’s reality.
In the same way we prepare ourselves for life, but as we embark on this journey we have no way of knowing what will happen tomorrow, especially in the situation our world finds itself in today. Should this keep us from stepping out in faith? Not at all! On the contrary, knowing that tomorrow is not guaranteed should be an impetus for us to dive in and trust God – He will definitely get all the glory since there’s no way for us to be prepared for the journey ahead.
James 4:13-16 NKJ “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’ But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”
In some way, when we rely too much on our preparation and planning, we are returning to relying on ourselves rather than relying on God for the outcome. If the goings-on of this world can prove anything to us it is that we surely don’t know what will happen from one day to the next. In fact, James tells us that too much planning and preparation is actually evil. Why do we live in this life as if it is going to last forever? There are ages yet to come – this is not the end of existence, it’s only the beginning.
Ephesians 2:6,7 NLT “For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.”
I won’t get it perfect; I’m also learning not to be disappointed when things have an unexpected ending. In fact, most things don’t end up exactly as we had planned. When the winds of change come, when the unexpected arrives, or when disappointments head in our direction the only way to deal with them is head-on. Face it, learn, and grow – if we can only do that, we have accomplished a lot. We’ve learned how to be perfectly imperfect.
Ecclesiastes 11:4 TLB “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.”