Today’s HerStory post is from the newest member of the leadership team at our Pepperdine University Wonderfully Made chapter. She is a wise girl with a sweet spirit. We are thankful to have her on our team, as well as part of our lives. Thank you for sharing your story, Laura!
My life has been a pendulum that swings from what I used to believe to be two opposing pursuits: the pursuit of perfection and the pursuit of self-acceptance.
In my early years as a Christian, I believed that no one is perfect and, therefore, no one expects that of me. ”There is no one righteous, not even one,” St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, and “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10, 23). God Himself does not even desire perfection of me, I thought, only faith. For I am only human, and so I do not have to be perfect. I can accept myself as I am, no matter how far I am from that which I was intended to be.
But as I got older, the idealist in me came to believe that perfection is indeed a virtue. Christ Himself said to “be perfect, even as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). It is the ultimate virtue, the culmination of all others, and, if I do not in agony strive for it, I thought, I will never achieve it. And if I fail to achieve it, I will never be enough. If I am not perfect, I thought, I cannot accept myself.
Only recently did I get off the swing altogether and realize that these pursuits can never be realized in opposition to one another. In fact, to put them at odds is both foolish and destructive. Both good, they were intended not to contradict but to promote one another, to work codependently, in fact, to both preserve us and fashion us into all we can possibly be.
I came to realize that, yes, I am called to be perfect, yet called not to strive to be something I am not but to strive to be perfectly that which I am. Some say, “To err is human,” but I disagree. I say, rather, to be perfect is human, made in the image of God, and to be imperfect is to be something self-created and never as wonderful as the original.
The Christian life is, at its core, a paradox. Through death we find life. Through suffering we experience joy. Through our humiliation we are exalted. In our brokenness we are made whole. In the same way, we are both perfect as we are yet never as perfect as we could be. We are both complete and yet an unfinished work. We are made whole and yet ever needing a bit of patching up. We have been given everything we need to be all we are meant to be right now, and yet we are never so perfect that we cannot become better. It is in our hunger that we are filled. It is in our weaknesses that we are made strong. It is in submission to God’s control that we live a life of freedom.
St. Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians,
“…I have learned in whatever state I am to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”
When we accept ourselves as we are—flawless, complete, lacking nothing, fearfully and wonderfully made with everything necessary to carry out God’s will for us on this earth, yet ever in need of His mercy—, and, when we, to the best of our ability, use those strengths He has given us and allow Him to work perfectly through our weaknesses, that is when we learn to be both abased and to abound, to joyfully know with what perfection we were created while never losing sight of the struggle to become all we were created to be, to be satisfied with the fullness of Christ yet ever hungry for more, and to realize that we can do all things perfectly through Christ who provides us completely with the perfect strength to do it.
Do you believe that you were made complete and without flaw? What keeps you from accepting this truth? What keeps you from forgetting it?