The false doctrine of perfectionism

I was privileged to be born into a christian family in Mexico, were the majority of the people don’t know the gospel. The Bible and Jesus were held as a high standard in my home.

God caught my heart when I was 9 when I was confronted with the truth that I said that I loved him but didn’t live as such. I repented, I wanted communion with him and I understood that I couldn’t go my own way and follow Jesus at the same time. It was him or I, and I followed him.

Bible + prayer + service became regular practices. He was always faithful, always helping me fight temptation and guiding me.

I went to Medical School because I wanted to serve him full time, whether as a missionary or just in a regular job. During a summer I met a guy on a mission trip where our two churches worked together, we fell in love, got married, and I moved to America (that’s the short version, there was 5 years in between). At that time I had to wait to do a residency program, here so instead I went and got a Masters in Business Administration. I worked in healthcare for 7 years.

Somehow this narrative of “christian perfectionism” weaved itself within the truth of the gospel. The idea that as a christian I had to be better than everyone else in my behavior, finances, education, family life, etc. I can see now how I tried really hard to have a good “testimony” with my friends in college, that I missed some opportunities to show my own weaknesses and point towards a perfect Savior. Sometimes this perfectionism took me to be prideful in thinking I was better than others and other times it brought me to shame and dissatisfaction with myself.

My life wasn’t just about that, God continued to work in my imperfection. He has definitely been working doing some deconstruction of this idea in the last few years.

About 4 years ago the Spirit started opening my eyes to see Jesus clearer, as a humble servant. I definitely wasn’t that, I wanted success, a good career, a leadership job, respect, even be a perfect mom…and everyone I seemed to admire had that: a position of power.

The idea of Jesus as a humble servant definitely grew my admiration for him…I couldn’t be like that as much as I tried on my own. I started praying for a humble heart, sanctification, the character of Jesus in me.

He continued to answer…in many ways. But the biggest was my son. He was born 2 1/2 years ago and he was very sick unexpectedly. Everything I brought to the table was not enough: my ability to be the best mother wasn’t going to be enough, my gifts were not going to be used in the church for a while but I was gonna have to ask for help and depend on other people.

And this idea of a good christian? This picture of a hard-working, successful, person? Well…my son was born sick. This is what they said: this is very serious, it could be fatal, and even if he makes it we cannot know if he is going to crawl, or walk, or talk, he could be blind, or deaf, or have major mental disabilities. Suddenly that idea of the value of a person being based on his success started to break: He is my son! I love him!

That’s how the heavenly Father loves me. I don’t have to perform. I don’t have to do. I don’t have to achieve. He loves me. Period.

The months to come were hard and I found myself in my weakest state and God worked in greater ways reminding me through his Word and my husband who God is.

God was still being faithful, loving , sovereign, this was not a mistake: He was there, not with his arms crossed but with his arms stretched out doing his work through this.

My faith wasn’t perfect. Doubt and skepticism tend to rob me of the joy that he has offered me. Sometimes it was difficult for me to celebrate my son’s milestones…knowing that there was so much I didn’t know. But other times it was a great cause for celebration.

My faith wasn’t perfect, but it has grown. At the same time I still have those tendencies: to doubt. So this has been my prayer/song for the last year:

Change my heart and make it yours
Change my heart and make it yours
From my doubt release me
From my selfishness deliver me

Change my heart and make it yours
From pride abstain me
From pride abstain me
Jesus, change my heart

Jesus, Jesus change my heart
And make it one that loves you, and you alone
May all glory be to you
May I never steal any of your praises

Change my heart and make it yours
Change my heart and make it yours
With great faith overwhelm me
May generosity overcome me

Change my heart and make it yours
With your humility clothe me
In your humility transform me
Jesus make me more like you

I’m learning to be vulnerable, to share about the difficult things in life at the same time I show people the truth about a Savior that is enough.

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