on perfection

I’m a perfectionist, through and through.

Recovering, should I say?

But I want things perfect. I want to be perfect, I want my marriage to be perfect, I want my friendships to be perfect AKA look like a Taylor Swift Instagram picture, and I want my apartment to look like it came off the pages of Cottage Living.

For most of my life, I’ve wanted perfect.

A year into our marriage, Chris and I invited my sister over for Fourth of July dinner. She drove down from Lexington, and I was super excited. I rushed around town finding the final decorations for our walls, scrubbing the upstairs bathroom she would never use, setting the pillows on our bed just so. I started dinner, finding pretty recipes that I would have to spend all day on and a gorgeous dessert trifle that was red, white and blue. Perfect.

But as is the case with most Big Ideas I have, I ran out of time. I ran out of time and my strawberries I bought for the trifle were rotten. And I got really mad and frustrated. I just wanted it to be perfect for my sister.

Then I thought to myself—Bull. You just want it to be perfect for you.  (Sometimes I can be brutally honest with myself.)

The problem is, true community and friendship is impossible to foster behind an act of perfection. It’s a lesson I’m learning every time we open our home, which Chris and I love to do. But it’s also a lesson I’m realizing as Chris and I search for a church. We left one church where everything looked perfect. The transitions smooth, the preaching good, the music very measured, the movement of people from the parking lot to the foyer to the sanctuary and back out flawless. We looked at each other after we left and both said, “We’re not cool enough to go here. It’s too perfect.”

It’s funny because we think what we want is perfect, but when our surroundings are perfect, it’s hard to relax. Because, deep down, we know we aren't perfect. We know our mask will eventually slip, and we’ll be found to be a fraud.

I think for millennials this is especially true. Remember, our generation has been told over and over that we are “perfect just the way we are,” mistakes and all. The number one thing we look for in a church is community, so when we go into a place and walk out feeling like we’re the only messed up thing in the room, we feel like we have to hold our breaths, tighten our mask, heighten our walls. All things that are the opposite of what Christ asks from us.

I don’t want people to feel like they have to walk into our home and put on a mask. And I don’t want to feel like I have to put on a mask of Perfect Hostess. I don't have to walk into church with an Everything is Awesome mask. 

We had several people over about a month ago, and I redid one of our chalk boards. I was really super proud, but a week later I realized I had misspelled a word on it. And I’ve kept it, because that’s not a mask, that’s me—full of good intentions and ideas, sometimes sloppy and impatient on the execution (should that become my new tagline? Probably not).

Definitely Pinterest worthy, right?

Definitely Pinterest worthy, right?

Jesus was perfection—the kind of complete perfection that is not at all what I’m talking about. My kind of perfect, earth’s idea of perfection, is self-serving, wrapped up in appearances and trends.

"Perfection" looks pretty

But perfection can’t cry with you.

Perfection can’t have empathy.

Perfection doesn’t put you at ease.

Perfection puts up walls.

It can’t understand the power in “Me, too.”

Perfection looks pretty, but that’s it.

So why do we think it’s so great anyway?