I’m a professed “Recovering Perfectionist.” If I couldn’t do something perfectly then I didn’t want to do it at all. When I became a Christian I determined that I would be the “perfect” Christian. I’d never read the Bible so I began a Bible reading regimen. Everyone told me to start reading the Gospel of John. Instead I started at the logical point, the beginning – Genesis. I had to read the Bible for 30 minutes to an hour each day. After reading the Bible I would then read the Life Application study notes to gain further insight into what I’d read. Then I’d do some sort of Bible Devotional (I ended up doing about three of these daily). Praying…I did that for a couple hours a day. This regimen went on for a couple of years. I finally got to the point where I was overwhelmed by all the “work” I had to do to be the “perfect” Christian. That’s when I realized that there was something missing. Well, actually Someone was missing.
My original intent, when I began the regimen, was to draw closer to Jesus. Along the way I lost sight of Jesus. I had become legalistic in my pursuit. Jesus was no longer my focus. Being the “perfect” Christian had become the bullseye of my target. The more perfect I strived to be the more frustrated I became. I was miserable. I was under the misconception that if I didn’t do everything on my regimen every day then my life wouldn’t be pleasing to God. I had fallen for the lie that I had to be perfect to be pleasing.
In the 2004 Olympics, a young man named Matt Emmons won a gold medal in prone rifle shooting. He was one shot away from getting his second gold medal in three-position rifle shooting. All he had to do was shoot somewhere close to the bullseye and he would win his second gold medal. He was focused on getting another perfect shot and he took aim. He made the perfect shot and hit another bullseye. That shot cost him the gold medal. He’d been so focused on the bullseye that he didn’t realize that he cross-fired and hit the wrong target. Matt went from first to last.
In my pursuit of being the “perfect” Christian I had cross-fired. My bullseye had become works wrapped in legalism. I was driven by the mentality that the more works I did the more pleasing I’d be to Jesus. I’d lost sight of the fact that Jesus was the Bullseye I needed to aim at. When I aim for Him first all the other stuff will fall into place. (Matthew 6:33)
I’ve finally realized that I don’t have to perfect. All I have to do is my best and God will do the rest. If I don’t get to read the Bible or do a devotion each day, it’s OK. Jesus simply wants me to spend time in relationship with Him. If I seek Him, He’ll show me how He wants us to spend our time together.
Spirituality is not about perfection; it’s about connection…let go of seeking perfection and, instead, seek God, the One who is present in the tangledness of our lives.
Messy Spirituality Michael Yaconelli