Contrary to popular belief, I don’t have my life all together! Not by a long shot. But I definitely fall into the “perfect church kid” stereotype. I’m at the church every time the doors are open, I play in the praise band, I’ve been a camp counselor, I know everyone there and they know me… but none of those things are synonymous with the word “perfect”. I’m really good at putting up facades. I’m really good at faking things. For the first fourteen years of my life, I let everyone believe I really was a pretty great kid. I hid the darkness in my life, and always smiled and knew the Sunday School answers to all the questions. But I was never vulnerable, I never let my guard down and admitted that I was struggling. And after hearing that I was “perfect” one too many times, I started feeling pressure to live up to that.
My identity became being that “perfect church girl” I felt that was what I was supposed to be. I started believing that anything less was not acceptable. I was completely missing the point though. God doesn’t call us to be perfect through the world’s eyes. He calls us to follow Him. And that means admitting that we are not perfect!! Only in Jesus can we be made righteous.
“For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is God’s gift. Not from works, so that no one can boast.” — Ephesians 2:8-9
Now, don’t get me wrong, God does call us to holiness. (Leviticus 20:26) We are called to do our best at everything to do for His glory (1 Corinthians 10:13, Colossians 3:17). But we aren’t doing any of this through our own power. And it’s not about what we do anyway. Being “perfect” isn’t a standard anyone can ever live up to. Don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself or anyone else. Even the apostle Paul, who was stoned and persecuted for his faith, declared,
“But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ — the righteousness from God based on faith.” — Philippians 3:7-9
The goal isn’t perfection. “Perfect church girl” doesn’t exist, and it’s not the goal anyway. Don’t put pressure on yourself or anyone else to be that. Instead, focus your energy on following Jesus and living in His righteousness. Be willing to be vulnerable and admit that we aren’t perfect, that’s why we need God’s grace. And thankfully were drowning in His sufficient grace every day of our lives. Grace that covers our failures and shortcomings. Grace that covers all the times we are less than perfect.
I used to let the fear of other’s opinions paralyze me. I was more worried that I would lose my “perfect” reputation that that I was living less than the abundant life God had planned for me. One night the summer before freshman year, all my facades crumbled. My youth group was on a mission trip, and all of a sudden, I couldn’t hold together my “perfect” image anymore. I made rash decisions that shattered my image and revealed how not together my life really was. I regretted it instantly, but not because I felt guilt for my sin. I regretted that my image and reputation could never be the same again.
Now, I wish I could go back and not do the mean things I did that night, but God taught me so much through that experience. He taught me that my priorities were all twisted and while I thought I was living all for Him, I was really living all for myself. Living to be “perfect” is our selfish way of trying to win the world’s approval. I am more than guilty of that. But God has been revealing to me for four years now that “perfect” isn’t the goal. Living for Him, and admitting I’m hopeless without Him, acknowledging that I need His help and grace… That’s the goal.
If I were to walk up to God on judgment day with a scot-free reputation but a dirty heart, He would see right through me. I need Him to cleanse my heart and make me new. And I have to humble myself and admit that my heart is a filthy mess without Him. I may be a “perfect church girl” by stereotype, but I don’t want to be that anymore. That doesn’t even exist. Don’t settle for a label or reputation less than the abundant life God has for you. He urges us to lay everything down before Him and live passionately pursuing Him, that’s how we find abundant life. So I’m laying down my reputation, I’m not going to focus on what others think, I’m going to try to be who God has called me to be and rely on His strength alone. Will you join me?