I have come to realize I am a perfectionist. Now, please know my house is not perfect, my children are not robots, and I am not always meticulously groomed. The way my perfectionism manifests itself is in how I feel about my imperfect home, my childish children, my appearance and actions.
One day I needed to renew two prescriptions at the local pharmacy. I requested the prescriptions but before I could pick them up I got an automated call from the pharmacy saying there was a delay with one of the drugs. No problem, I wasn’t in desperate need of the medications, so I didn’t pick up either of them. A couple of days passed when I got another automated call from the pharmacy. The voice informed me if I didn’t pick up my prescriptions within twenty-four hours they would be re-shelved.
Now I would imagine most people would take this for what it was, a reminder to get to the pharmacy and pick up the medications. But I got angry. I felt reprimanded by the automated voice and I did not like it at all. My thoughts were obsessed with how the pharmacy was at fault. I never received a call saying the problem was resolved and the prescriptions were ready. I really stewed over this. I contemplated complaining to the pharmacy staff and alerting them of their “mistake.” I certainly didn’t want the blame on me.
I feel awful when I make mistakes, but when blamed for something that is not my fault, I get angry. The ultimate pain for me is having others think poorly of me. It steamed me that some pharmacy worker might think I was negligent, or irresponsible. Really, the amount of time and energy I expended thinking all these thoughts was outrageous. Though it has been several years, I remember how it felt clearly.
This is one of the ways I have lived like an enslaved person, not a free person. I was walking on a tightrope of these narrowly defined rules about being “good.” The crazy thing is none of these rules were biblical. They were rules I bought into somehow. I believed I should not be a person who forgets things, or who makes mistakes, or who says the wrong thing. And I was miserable. All the while God was offering me an alternative and I was turning away from His offer.
From The Spacious Place, 2015
I wrote the above passage several years ago and I’m happy to report that pharmacy foibles no longer take over my thoughts for days. Psalm 31:8 says, “You have not handed me over to the enemy, but have set my feet in a spacious place.” Do you also care about the opinions of others more than you need to? Do you also spend time and energy making sure you look good to the world? Please tell me I’m not the only one! God is offering a spacious place, a place of freedom from the world’s standards.
When I find myself obsessing about a way I think I look bad to others, I have to stop and take it to the Lord. Praying for help is exactly what will refocus our minds on him and on living a life that pleases him. Freedom is not doing anything we want. Freedom is the peace we experience when we are no longer enslaved to our sins and struggles.