Monday, March 26, 2018


I awoke at 3:00 a.m., unable to sleep. As I prayed, I began to sing in my mind. "I surrender all; I surrender all. All to thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all." Suddenly, the Lord spoke into my spirit, "Have you really surrendered all?" Meditating on His question, I began to think about the word "surrender," so I looked up the full meaning of the word.

Surrender means to give oneself up, give way, yield, submit, relinquish, sacrifice, turn over, transfer, grant. As I reflected on that definition, I realized that I had not surrendered all, because I had not fully surrendered perfectionism.

Perfectionism is defined as someone who strives to be free from any flaw, to be precise, accurate, and exact in everything they do. Can you imagine how exhausting it is to strive for perfectionism, because realistically, perfectionism is not achievable?

The perfectionist believes that their self-worth is based on their achievements. Both my parents were caught in the cycle of perfectionism, because their parents were perfectionists who demanded that their children be nothing less than perfect.

Perfectionism demands unrealistic expectations and goals for ones self, which is then transferred to others. Often perfectionists require that their children be perfect, because they see their children as a reflection of who they are and their success as a parent. If their child is less than perfect, a parent views that imperfection as their own personal failure.

As a child, I loved to learn and couldn't wait to go to school. I would stand at our large picture window in the living room and cry every morning when the big yellow school bus stopped to pick up my older brother. I wanted to be on that bus, headed for adventures in learning.

My parents saw my potential for learning and at age four enrolled me in a progressive educational program at a Catholic school, even though we were not Catholic. Eager to learn and experience new things, I thrived in my new environment and quickly learned to write in cursive and Old English. I studied French and was in the school production of Cinderella. My mother told me years later that the nuns had told her, "Don't ever let Joy lose her joy and her hunger for knowledge."

I attended the Catholic school for two years until my parents couldn't afford the tuition any longer. I was then enrolled in the public school system. My expectations of having exciting adventures at my new school were quickly dashed when I was met with rejection and constant bullying.

Children who are bullied immediately believe there must be something wrong with them. I thought I could fix things by being that perfect, agreeable friend to all. However, the more I tried, the more I was rejected, bullied, and physically attacked. When I told my parents what was happening, they told me that I must have been doing something wrong to attract that kind of negative attention.

Up to that point, I had done well academically, but when my efforts to fit in socially were dashed, my grades dramatically dropped. My parents were then called to a teacher's conference to ask for their permission to hold me back a grade. Disappointed that my parents didn't support and believe in me, I emotionally and physically quit trying.

Years of mediocre academic achievement came and went and then shortly after I turned 16, my father suddenly died. That year, something clicked within me, and I vowed to prove to the world that I wasn't stupid. Once again, I strove for perfection in everything I did. 

I became the perfect daughter by agreeing with my mother's choices for me. I made the honor roll throughout high school and then the Dean's List in college. So began the long debilitating road of perfectionism. It would be many years later that I would understand and have compassion for my parents who had suffered under that same scourge of perfectionism. 

Perfectionism is a road that no person should ever travel because you never allow yourself mistakes, and you never measure up in your own eyes or in the eyes of another perfectionist. Interestingly, though some will view you as having it all together, you struggle with what you believe to be your many failures and flaws.

The Word of God tells us that we have been crucified with Christ. No longer is it we who live, but Christ lives in us. And the life that we live in the flesh, we live by faith in the Son of God, who loves us and gave Himself up for us (Galatians 2:20). Thus, God is my Father and the Potter, and I am the clay and the work of His hands. Can the clay tell the Potter how to shape and mold the clay? No! The Potter has full control over the clay. Only in His hands, can the clay become a beautiful vessel (Isaiah 64:8). Unfortunately, the unrealistic perfectionist tries to be both the potter and the clay, which prevents God from having absolute artistic control.

Jesus said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. The Apostle Paul added, "Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me" (2 Corinthians 12:9). This Word is a powerful truth that resonates deep within my soul, because it allows for those weaknesses and imperfections.

I have quoted and written this scripture more times than I can count. "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:14). Yes, we can do all things through Him, but not through our own efforts. It is God who gives us every good and perfect gift, and it is He who enables us to use those gifts and talents that we possess.

We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10). That is such good news! We are His workmanship and not workmanship resulting from our abilities and performance.

A person, who struggles to be perfect, loses the joy found in living life to the fullest, because every day is a challenge to do everything perfectly. Fortunately, as a Christian, I have learned to allow myself mistakes. However, there are times when perfectionism knocks, and it is a struggle to keep that door shut.

Recently, I was disappointed in the outcome of a project that I had worked to perfect in every detail. Up to that point, I was convinced that I had overcome perfectionism. But when I became upset with the finished product, it became clear that a remnant of perfectionism still lingered in the shadows. 

Joyfully, I can now answer God's question, "Have you really surrendered all?" I am aware of my propensity to slip into perfectionism and recognize my failure to totally trust in the Holy Spirit to give me all that is required to succeed in whatever He asks of me. Thankfully, with God's guidance and correction, I will surrender thoughts of failure. Then I will be able to say with all assurance that I have surrendered all.

FATHER, I am Your workmanship, created in Your image. When the enemy tells me I am less than what I need to be, remind me that I am clay in Your loving hands, and You are the Potter, who is working to create a vessel of honor, sanctified, and useful for every good work (2Timothy 2:21). In Jesus name, amen.

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