A while ago I wrote a blog where I mentioned my expectations of perfection. At the time it garnered a fair amount of conversation. Apparently, others see this propensity in me as well. And, although I now see it very clearly, I’m still unsure of how to change it because I’m not sure where to draw the line between reasonable and unreasonable expectations.
Because fairly often when one of my children is particularly difficult, I’m pretty sure I lose my marbles for a few minutes…or more. And my marbles can fly and hit other children with a ferocity that shocks me. In those moments, I think, “Well, you definitely aren’t striving for perfection today”…but then I have to ask, “What is the perfect response when things are crazy, chaotic, and overwhelming? How do I act reasonable when I’m just plain ole worn out? What is reasonable?”
I’m pretty confident that my words and facial expression and demeanor can seem by no means reasonable. And I’m more than certain that I do some very imperfect things.
Okay, so I’m not perfect and my actions can be a big disappointment to me, what do I do now? Because I think maybe this is one thing I need to consider.
When I fail – which is a reasonable expectation because I’m human and pretty tired – what next?
Isaiah 30:15 For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.
I keep coming back to this verse so I’m camping here for a while. I have the marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers, let’s sit around the campfire and consider this because it’s rich and practical and inspiring.
Israel was always struggling with trusting God…with living well for and with Him. And thankfully for them and us, God always pursues His people. Israel continually put their trust in other nations rather than God. Always straying off the path. Seeking the answer away from the Answer. Responding in fear and anxiousness.
They needed to let go of their fear and grab hold of faith. (Did I say “they”?…)
Oh, how I need to hear this myself. LET GO OF FEAR AND GRAB HOLD OF FAITH. It’s not possible to hold both fear and faith.
It’s interesting to me how often God assures us there is no reason to fear, that He loves us perfectly, and that He will never leave us nor forsake us, and yet it can be such a challenge to accept this.
I can only speak for myself, but I, like Israel, am continually looking away from God for the thing that will “make everything better”…well, seem better. And God is continually saying, “Just Me. All you need is me!”
I want to find the perfect things, be the perfect woman so I can have the perfect life so I can raise the perfect children and be the perfect teacher and have perfect relationships in my perfect little world.
Yeah…don’t ask how’s that working for me…because clearly it is not.
Isaiah 30:15 uses the word returning. Returning is a deliberate act of going back to something. Usually it would be referring to something physical. What does that look like for me? Returning to things that encourage me to walk more closely with Him. Letting go of things that don’t. Saying yes to things that I’m called to do, not just saying yes because there is a need. Taking time to be with Him.
But another version uses repentance instead. Repentance which means a change of mind…it is a conscious decision to change direction. To look a different direction. It is interesting to study word meanings – this one is a bit tricky. People who know a lot more than me disagree on the actual meaning of this word. Some say it has to do with regret and shame, some say it is a military term which means “about face”, and some say it has nothing to do with negative feelings, but simply means to rethink something. It’s fascinating. (English teacher…)
Whatever the word origin, the idea is simply that we change direction and in our case…we turn to God. It isn’t simply an act of regret…turning in shame. It is an act of faith…turning in hope. Trusting that God can handle both my mess and my life.
There is certainly the element of rest in that as we turn to Him…allow Him to lead…we can let go of the burden.
When I consider rest, I think about being somewhere quiet, peaceful, and calm. A place where I can lay myself down, close my eyes, and sleep. If I can do that, there is no fear involved. It is a place of safety too. Resting well involves trusting. For me, that’s believing that God can handle whatever is going on and I can close my eyes and relax. Trusting that I’m safe..that my children are safe.
This morning I was woken up by one of those sounds that I couldn’t figure out if it was part of a dream or reality. Unfortunately, the dog woke too (which probably meant he made the sound). So he and I had a very early morning together – checking doors and such. He also got a very early walk about the neighborhood (without me…I’m not that brave). Following our brief very early morning adventure, I decided to try to sleep a bit longer. I still was a bit concerned for a few reasons…my outside lights wouldn’t come on, I still didn’t know the origin of the noise, and my dog was restless. I tried to rest but it was challenging. Thoughts swirled through my head….maybe I need a security system, should I put curtains on all the windows so you can’t see in at all, should I get a more solid door in the back, should there be more lights in the backyard??? There was no rest because I didn’t feel entirely safe.
I was definitely feeling a bit restless, like my dog.
When he is restless…he wanders as if he doesn’t know what he needs, what to do, or where to go. He whimpers a bit and even occasionally will let out a bark. He can’t sit or lie down for even a moment…he can’t be still.
That’s how I feel I live my life sometimes. Searching for something to fix everything. Unsure of what to do. Whimpering a bit about my predicament. Sometimes letting out a bark of annoyance at all the challenges. Unable to be still. Unable to rest.
The answer to my restlessness, is turning my focus to Jesus.
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal.” Isaiah 26:3
Repenting…turning to Him.
My salvation in Him.
But God doesn’t leave me there. He says, “in quietness and trust is your strength.”
Quietness. Oh that I was a quiet person. I’m soft spoken (most of the time), but I’ve been told (by my children) I laugh too loud. That’s probably just because almost everything I do is slightly or completely embarrassing to them…so laughing louder is now my goal LOL! But I don’t believe that this quietness is the volume of our speaking or laughing, but the volume of our thinking…does that make sense? Quietness means “undisturbed, calm”. It is interesting because we use the word disturbed to refer to someone who is not thinking in a healthy way. Spiritually speaking, quietness is Christ-centered thinking.
When He is the center, everything else seems to calmly, gently fall into place.
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:3-4
My inner self needs to chill. My restlessness needs to cease. My spirit needs to quiet down.
Rest in Jesus. Rest in the knowledge that He loves me completely, relentlessly. Be quiet in Him.
It would be very difficult to be quiet in the Lord without trusting Him. How could quietness be a defining feature of my life without trusting Him? Simple answer…it can’t. If I don’t trust Him I will be continually trying to turn back around (un-repent), I will be restless in my pursuit of control, I will be disturbed in my thinking and spirit because I have lost my focus, my peace of mind…my peace.
That to me is a weak place to be. A place where I’m easily wearied, easily frustrated, easily angered, easily hurt, easily confused, easily prone to negative emotions…that is not a healthy, undisturbed, restful place.
There is no strength without trusting God…without resting quietly in Him. Without turning my life around to follow after Him.
Following Him, trusting Him, and resting in Him give me the strength I need to live without regret…to believe that each day is a gift, that each burden can be a blessing, that each moment is an opportunity to choose Christ…choose His perfection rather than mine (which clearly isn’t perfect anyway).
Regardless of how I react or act, God still calls to me. He still reaches across my messiness and pulls me close. He still offers me rest…security…peace.
I know that I struggle with unreasonable expectations for myself. I know that I tend to beat myself up…I have the bruises (and blogs) to prove it. But I want to be different because I certainly don’t want to raise children who place unreasonable expectations on themselves (or others for that matter).
Feeling like a failure has an element of fear involved. And a big bit of perfectionism is a tragic attempt to control things that aren’t very controllable. Letting go of those things is hard, but I have hope in my Savior. His love is relentless.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23
My propensity to seeking and expecting perfection cannot be satisfied in my own efforts. It can only be satisfied in Christ, who is perfection.
His propensity to faithfulness, gentleness, and love is unending even when I fail…He doesn’t beat me up so maybe it’s time I stop too.
He is enough perfect for me.