This woman. She knows it: In a world that seems so broken, don’t we so long for the peace and perfection of the Garden? After all, we were made for Eden. And yet, somehow we turn that longing for perfection into the poison of perfectionism, into constant attempts to achieve perfection on our own, by our own strength, and for our own purposes. Writer and speaker Kim Hyland knows perfectionism oh so well, but she also knows the antidote: not trying and striving harder but acknowledging our limitations and embracing the perfection of God through His grace. She’s written her journey and the truths she’s learned in her new book An Imperfect Woman: Letting Go of the Need to Have It All Together, and it’s a delight to welcome her to share here today . . .
“That’s not how you do it!” I said.
In hindsight, my son’s tense face revealed his frustration and discouragement.
But all I saw was stubbornness. I proceeded to show Josh exactly how to clean the kitchen counter.
“You wipe off the crumbs first. Then you spray the counter and scrub it. When you’re done scrubbing, you rinse out the rag and wipe it again.”
Josh didn’t appear to be listening, which only made me angrier.
“Mom, do you really think there’s only one right way to clean the kitchen counter?”
My knee-jerk response was he’s arguing again! But something about his tone stopped me. In a moment of something close to humility, I realized it was an honest question.
Do I really believe there’s only one right way to clean the kitchen counter?
I pondered a moment.
I was as incredulous as Josh was sincere. I really believed there was only one right way to clean the kitchen counter!
And only one right way to clean the bathroom. And only one right way to dust. And only one right way to educate. And only one right way to discipline.
And only one right way to do marriage, parenting, friendship . . . one, and only one, right way to live life.
And it was up to me to find it.
What pride. What idiocy! What a crushing burden to bear.
Perfectionism is paralyzing. Many of my days were filled with frustration, anger, futility, and depression. “No matter how hard and fast and smart I work, it’s never enough.” The message in my head that eventually stuck was I’m not enough. And that was the same message I unwittingly conveyed to my family.
Perfectionism takes amoral things like clean kitchen counters and makes them the measure of morality, of goodness:
I’m a good wife if my husband is happy.
I’m a good mom if my kids are clean, mannerly, and well-behaved.
I’m a good student if I rank in the top of my class, get into my first choice of colleges, and maintain a 4.0 GPA.
In a morally relativistic culture, good is easily replaced with successful, and the trap is set again:
I’m a successful entrepreneur if I make at least six figures.
I’m a successful blogger if my Instagram feed has five hundred, one thousand, ten thousand, one hundred thousand followers.
Will it ever be enough?
God knew when He made us that we’d never find contentment outside of His perfection.
Eden was forever lost to Adam and Eve when God sent them away, but He promised to restore His children one day to that perfect place. This time He’d do it through His own Son.
Only Jesus can satisfy our hearts’ longing for perfection. But it takes a humility that is willing to forsake our pride and its many manifestations.
We need a new paradigm for humility. Thankfully, we have one in Jesus.
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5–8 NASB).
Jesus knew who He was, but He didn’t use that knowledge to His advantage.
Rather, He used His place of strength and position for the sake of others by relinquishing it and becoming a man.As the Son of God, equal with His Father, He had the right to be served, but He chose to serve instead.
If that’s all He had done, it would have been more than we deserved. Jesus could have come and demonstrated to us the right way to live and left it at that.
But He knew we needed more than an example of good behavior. We needed a Savior to rescue us from sin and all its destruction in our lives.
So in humility and love, Jesus submitted to history’s greatest injustice when He humbled Himself “by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (v. 8).
Letting go of the ambitions, expectations, and standards my pride had erected hasn’t been easy. The serpent’s hiss is ever present, tempting me to doubt, become discontent, and believe the lie that God is not enough.
While my daily battle with perfectionism seems as far from Eden as my messy bedroom is from Paradise, it’s the very same temptation.
Will I trust God and His promises, power, wisdom, and love, or will I proudly turn to my own resources to manage my life?
Will I believe He is enough?
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7).
In His wise design, God made us fragile and with a constant need of Him.
He did this so we would know His love and power not only at salvation but in our day-to-day lives as well.
Humbly embracing the reality of our weakness and His strength opens our hearts and paves the way for us to walk with our Father in the freedom and intimacy Christ bought for us.
Can we give Him our not enoughs?
Kim Hyland is a writer, a speaker, and the founder and host of Winsome, an annual retreat for women that celebrates authenticity, diversity, and truth. She also speaks at national retreats and conferences, where she encourages women by sharing her imperfect path and God’s perfect plans.
If you feel like you’re constantly giving everything you’ve got, only to feel shame when achieving perfection proves impossible—Kim knows your struggle, and she’s the perfect understanding guide to show you a grace-filled way out. In her freeing book An Imperfect Woman: Letting Go of the Need to Have It All Together, she offers a stirring manifesto for acknowledging our limitations and embracing the perfection of God through his grace.
Join Kim in this journey as she offers you practical ways to intentionally reject common traps and embrace life-changing biblical truths that will set you free to be who God says you are: an imperfect woman, perfectly loved!
[ Our thanks to Baker Publishing for their partnership in today’s devotion ]