The Unwinnable Contest

2 Nov

Everyone in their lives, no matter who you are or where you are, knows that one person who does everything. Whether on the 36th floor at “Corporate”, or that one overachieving mom who is raising her 27 kids in the tent next to you in the jungle….we all know at least one. It’s easy to hate them. They have a tendency to give you lectures about how to raise your kids or what kind of car you should drive, or what kinds of books you should read/write. They make it look so easy, and you never hear them complain, or tell you what they struggle with.

But once in a while, you’ll find the ones who “do everything”, who aren’t hateable. These are the Wunderpeople, the ones who sit on every board of every one of your favorite non-profits, while acting as CEO of a great, world-changing company, raising 5 kids, and throwing great weekend parties that aren’t shallow. It helps if they share your taste in music and art. When they talk to you, they genuinely want to be with you – they aren’t faking it, or using you to widen their “network”. You can leave feeling loved.

I know one of these people. She’s wonderful, and intimidating. She does really great things, loves Jesus, and loves people well. She is an older women, with wisdom and kindness. And so, is completely non-hateable.

I recently had a conversation with her about church things and commented on how she seems to do EVERYTHING.

She quietly paused and said to me: “Well….I realized….I don’t have to do everything perfectly.” She shrugged her shoulders.

I should probably let her know that her small comment was a big deal to me. I’ve spent the last few months trying to do everything perfectly. I have a new job, a new house, and I want to do these things WELL. I hate feeling incompetent, but not nearly as much as I hate feeling like other people can see any incompetencies in me. I certainly awknowledge to myself that I am not perfect, but I am always trying to live up to this standard – especially at home – that is often impossible. Will my house be clean enough? Will they enjoy our party? Is my dinner good enough? Will I get enough things done to be able to be satisfied with myself?  In my head is the echo of thousands of women, none of whom are actually my friends, but they live in this imaginary judgement world, where women are constantly in competition with each other, in a contest no one can really win.

I know people say they have epiphanies all the time. But her words made me feel like I could breathe again. This woman is not only looked up to by me, but by many others, including civic and church leaders. And her secret? Not having to do everything perfectly. Novel. Belief in the inevitable. A woman who actually dares to believe that Christ’s strength is made perfect in her weakness? And here I am, trying to fill in the gaps of my own failures with a mortar that holds up as well as toothpaste, when the strength of an Eternal King is offered.  What an idol I have made for myself.

I have watched  myself freeze at the prospect of not “doing everything perfectly”. So what do I do? Nothing at all. What a waste. What a dishonor to who Christ has made me to be – as a woman, as a wife, as a sister, as a friend. I may as well carry a sign that says “I do not need God.”

I desperately need God. I will fail tomorrow at something. I may even fail you.  I don’t have to do everything perfectly, because Someone Else already has. And his Grace? It is sufficient. Yesterday, tomorrow, and forever.  Even when I do not believe it.

How much more can I do when I stop believing in the lie of perfection apart from Christ?

2 Responses to “The Unwinnable Contest”

  1. Sheryl November 2, 2010 at 9:12 pm #

    I once had someone explain the concept to me of striving for excellence rather than perfection. Like, if you’re having a dinner party and strive for perfection, well – if you overcook something or even the slightest thing goes wrong, you’re screwed. But if you’re trying to do it in excellence, you can still achieve that even if you burn the main course. I thought that was a good way of looking at things. Thanks for the blog, it reminded me of this. 🙂

  2. scott November 4, 2010 at 7:15 am #

    When we started our little church, one of our goals was to do things with “excellence”. It wasn’t long before we were using the phrase “excellent enough”.
    We can’t use it as an excuse for not working hard, but we do have to recognize our limits.
    Yes, God’s grace is sufficient. Thanks for the reminder.

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