Perfect

“To all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless.” (Psalm 119:96)

Today in our online Bible Study (hosted by Lelia) we are discussing chapter two of Lisa Whittle’s book, Behind Those Eyes. This week’s reading is called Ms. Perfection.

Lisa begins by giving us an almost comical play-by-play of what she calls the “The Great Sunday Morning Fakeout”. We follow a family’s stressed out preparations for church and grimace as they put on those fake smiles as soon as they hit the church parking lot.

We have had plenty of stressful mornings preparing for church, but this story struck a chord with me for an entirely different reason.

For years, I was the not-so-perfect one looking on with longing at these seemingly perfect little families. I always felt incomplete. Never up to muster.

Why?

Because my husband did not come to church with us until two short years ago.

I remember watching couples hold hands during worship and feeling sadness so deep in my soul because I could not share this very important part of my life with my husband, an unbeliever at the time.

Without the help of my husband, getting myself and two little baby boys to church on time–without spit up or some like substance all over one of us–was always a major accomplishment. Needless to say, I never felt that I could carry off the “perfect” image.

I’ll never forget one particular Sunday when no sooner had I deposited Teddy at the Toddler nursery and gotten Jeffrey to the Infant nursery, only to be stalled by a crying baby wanting to eat. I missed the first part of church (my boys never did take a bottle—always steak-al-la-mom) but was relieved to finally sit down and worship.

We had just finished the second hymn when a sweet little lady behind me leaned up and gently tucked the interfacing back into my dress. It was hanging out down my back. Apparently I had not put myself back together after Jeffrey’s brunch.

I wanted to crawl under the pew.

I tell you this, not to draw your sympathy, but to show how the ideal of perfection can harm in ways we may never imagine.

After 13 years of prayer, when my husband finally came to Christ, it was in a way that was beyond anything I could ever ask or imagine (isn’t that just like Him?). Rarely do we ever get to sit in the pew and hold hands, as I had dreamed of those years ago.

Jeff became the praise team leader, see. Most of the time, we drive to and from church in separate cars. I am content to watch him worship God in a way that far exceeds my prayers.

But I wasn’t always. I went through a season of extreme sorrow. I was mourning the loss of that dream of the perfect Sunday morning family church outing. After 13 years of prayer, I just wanted to sit in church with my husband! Was that so wrong?

Yes, it was. It was selfish and small minded.

I mean, for heaven’s sake! God had worked a miracle in my husband’s heart and I was upset because it didn’t happen the way I wanted it to! All because of an image of perfection that I had blown up in my mind.

God taught me a valuable lesson through that season.

He very firmly and purposefully taught me that worship is about Him. It’s not about me. It’s not about having a perfect family experience. What happens in that church on Sunday morning is about what happens between Him and me. Not me and my husband. Not me and my children. Not even me and the other churchgoers.

Liberating?

After a season of arguing with Him about it, it was for me.

But I do go on.

I have a lot of thoughts about the perfect package, the perfect mom, and the perfect wife too. But I’m guessing that, as usual, I’ve “talked” too much.

What Lisa is really exposing for us in this insightful book is the idolatry that we let creep into our lives.

These things can begin as something lovely.

I want to be a good wife. I want to be a good mother.

But when these desires come between me and my Heavenly Father, they become idols.

I don’t know about you, but I am thanking Lisa for challenging me to take a good look at the things that I hold dear.

I’m not necessarily always liking what I’m seeing.

Constant vigilance.

That’s what it takes. And the support of good bloggy friends.
Until next week: BE REAL!

Comments

  1. says

    I loved this post! Keeping it real is something God desires from us…he knows our hearts and knows when we’re real, but the expression of genuine worhip..what could be better! May I keep it real!

  2. says

    Wow, Laura! I’m glad I saved your post for the last one to read tonight before I head to bed. Very thought provoking – really gives me something to chew on during my ‘quiet time’ before allowing sleep to claim me.

    Thank you!

  3. says

    God answers our prayers…just not in the way we think He should. Praise God for your husband and his ministry and God’s answer to prayer. THanks for stopping by my blog and I will keep you in my prayers. Connie

  4. says

    I am so glad you are participating in this study. We all have so much to learn and so much to share.

    I love how God answers prayers even though sometimes it takes longer than we would like.

    Blessings, Cindy

  5. says

    Hi Laura, thanks for stopping by on my blog and leaving a comment. Since you were there, I’ve added a postscript to the entry that contains my friend’s answer on if I’m real or not.

    I love this post of yours though! God is amazing, and certainly gets what He wants! The story of your husband coming to Christ is amazing, and although I, as a chick, can relate to you just wanting to sit in the pew and hold hands with your man, I honour God for teaching you, and now us, a valuable lesson. It’s all about Him!

    Thanks again, and I look forward to checking your blog out again after chapter three!

    In Hin, Paula 🙂

  6. says

    Laura,
    I love how you have brought out so many different things here. Small things that can make such a big difference in how we worship God and what we receive back from him. The fact that after 13 years of your desire to have your husband with you at church, he accepted Christ as his savior, that is amazing. I know that going to church without your spouse is so heartbreaking and you have trials at home. But Thank God that he had mercy upon our husbands and drew them in.

    Maybe if you think about it…you and your husband ARE holding hands at church, spiritually.

  7. says

    Oh girl! You are soooooo on.

    I have to say, I really enjoy your writing, and especially your honesty. I too, have been so trapped by my expectation of the perfect answer to prayer… that I hardly even noticed that my prayer had been answered. Aren’t we rebellious little ones?

    Your wisdom has blessed my day, and I am so glad to be on this journey with you! I will stop back in again!

    Darlene

  8. says

    Thank you for sharing your heart.

    Many times I have sat in a pew, just like you,wanting my marriage to be Christ-centered.

    I’m so glad that God answered both our prays…we serve an mighty God!

  9. says

    Laura, we have very similar stories, friend. I, too, waited many years to have Shannon join us at church. (I’ll share that story sometime soon, and link back to your post).
    It is not always easy to be real, but at the end of the day, it is really all we can be.
    And you’re right, the support of good bloggy friends is unbelievably encouraging in this walk of faith!

    God Bless,
    Amy:)

  10. says

    Wow! I love your post. I am encouraged by stories like yours. My husband attends worship services, but only to please me, not so much to please God. I have recently started attending with or without him instead of rearranging or skipping when he is unable or unwilling to go. Your story is great encouragement.

    I enjoy your blog. Look forward to reading more.

  11. says

    Oh wow. You’ve stirred up many thoughts…can I get them all down before I lose them.

    I was pleasantly surprised when you mentioned idolatry. I have mentioned perfectionsim being a sin by way of idolatry in several of my comments. I don’t believe I included that in my blog piece though. It is SO true. I believe right alone perfectionism, worry is also a sin when it becomes an idol. Often times we think of idols as maybe people but it is so much more than that. It’s not just people and things but also feelings and perceptions.

    Also, in regards to your dream of church service and your husband…you had me at EVERY word. I had forgotten your husband was a baby Christian.

    I had Holy bumps reading this, Laura. I mean, you always prayed for your husband to just simply be a Christian and worship along side you. But NO, God wanted Jeff to be His AND to be active in worship. The icing on that cake is not only is he a Christian, leading worship, but you are okay with that. See how God CHANGED your dream. Your dream of wanting your husband to hold hands in church was changed to the dream GOD had for him…to lead others in worship. God brought you right along with His dream. He knew what Jeff would do and He changed your heart to be okay and thrilled at watching your husband.

    Now that doesn’t mean, that as in most churches, the worship leader is given a break on ocassion and THEN you can have your dream for that one Sunday. I know the two months of the year that we have five Sundays, the youth lead our church. Maybe your new church does something similar and you don’t even know it. See, God just might not be finished with you yet. I mean, He may give you that original dream of yours for one Sunday. But if not, all is well anyway.

    Sorry to be long winded. I just felt “on fire” with my thoughts after reading yours.
    Love ya,
    Paula

  12. says

    I so enjoy reading what you have to say, and I can ‘feel’ what you went through. Wow! What a lesson! And what Heavenly triumph now that your Husband is a believer, a worship leader at that! God has lessons for all of us in everything, I think, and looking back, I know that my prayers have been answered beautifully, but never how I ‘designed’ or imagined them… Much, much more beautifully…

    Hope you are enjoying the week. Blessings. Naomi

  13. says

    Laura,

    How great that God’s answers to our prayers are always better than we dream. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. As a teacher of toddlers on Sunday morning you are one of the women I admire; one who has made the effort to get up and bring her children to church when her husband didn’t believe and to faithfully pray for his salvation all those years. I know there had to be times when it got discouraging but thank you for be faithful in what God called you to do as a wife and mother.

    I look forward to reading future posts

  14. says

    Laura,

    Thank you so much for sharing a different perspective. We who play Ms. Perfection are truly hurting those who are also longing for Ms Perfection.

    I understand too the reaction when your husband came to Christ…now he will sit with me in church. We are just NEVER happy with his perfect plan are we??

    Wonderful post!!

    Have a great week/weekend.
    blessings,
    Kim

  15. says

    Laura, reading your post reminded me of my longing to see my husband in a relationship with God. It also reminded me of how I to was when he came to that relationship. See when it was just me I was the one who knew all the Bible stories. Now I turn to him and ask him to explain things to me. Isn’t that funny. I remember God saying to me Carol, I’m turning him into the Spiritual leader for the family you prayed for. Duh I did pray for him to fall in love with Jesus and to give him a hunger for the Word, then I was jealous when it happened. We are funny fleshies aren’t we.

    I loved your post and your honesty. I also related to those inferior feelings, when I use to go to church as a single mom with my baby.

    Thanks so much for keeping us real.

  16. says

    Hi there Laura,

    Your post reminds me of my friend Alice. Her husband gets miffed at her at times because she has no desire to get lovey-dovey with him in church. To her, the worship time if between her and God, so she’s not interested in holding hands or sitting close.

    I’m glad we are getting real together. Love, Lee

  17. says

    I love hearing your heart here.

    Maybe it is that you are a psychologist and I’ve got my MA in counseling. But I think it is a personality thing as well. I would just love to sit down to lunch with you. I think we might be friends!

  18. says

    Laura, my friend.

    I just thanked God for your gift of writing, that speaks directly to my soul. I prayed for you by name tonight, girlfriend.

    I loved this different perspective on perfection. I loved how you talked about the motive behind it and how we can’t make worship or ANYTHING about us. It isn’t. Striving for perfection is really a symptom of a self-focus, now isn’t it? We can’t act “perfect” when we have tunnel vision on Him.

    Love the wisdom, Laura.

    Lisa 🙂

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