Rescued from Perfection

  When we talk about Faith, it seems that there could be any number of things to discuss. But I have found myself stuck as I have thought about the root of what my faith really is, when it began, and how I found it. What does faith mean for me? What is the significance of faith in my life? The past two months have brought me to a place of reflection about my own journey of faith. I do this fairly regularly as far as short-term history is concerned. I will often process what God has done in my life or in my circumstances over a year or two. But I try to avoid going back too far, as those are the times, events, and circumstances I am happy to be saved from and no longer want to linger in my memory. Lately, however, I have found myself doing just that. Lingering on the person I was and the life I lived before Jesus Christ and His word showed me what faith truly means.

I spent much of my childhood and young adult life searching desperately for ways to earn love and attention from those that would withhold it from me as a reward for good behavior, or a punishment for bad behavior. I began to learn at a very young age that love came with “goodness.” At home, the way I performed and how well I behaved was the defining factor in whether I received affection and attention or disdain and punishment. In church, I was taught to meet behavioral expectations to avoid the wrath of God and to prove that Jesus “lived in my heart.” I quickly decided that I needed to figure out a way to be good, better yet, to be perfect. If I was perfect, it would convince God I loved Him and He would love me back. If I made sure to do everything right, I would get the affection and affirmation I craved from my loved ones. Perfection was the key to never feeling unloved. I didn’t like not feeling loved. It made me feel alone, insecure, and lost.

So, I did what I had to do to be perfect. To earn everyone’s love. I always smiled, I was always nice to everyone, I did well in school, I did what I had to do to stay skinny enough, pretty enough, popular enough. It was too late before I realized the shift from perfection to destruction. Convincing everyone to love me quickly turned into people pleasing at all-cost. My search for physical perfection led to eating disorders and self-destructive choices. My relationship with my family was deteriorating and I began to find my self in a place of constant compromise and self-loathing. I put myself in situations of danger and harm, rather than love and safety. But I didn’t care. I felt alone, insecure and lost, the very feelings I was trying so hard to avoid. All I wanted to do was fill the hole in my heart where love and acceptance should’ve been.

Thankfully, God knew me before I was born. He knew the life I would live and the choices I would make. He knew what would happen to me as a child and how those circumstances would influence me as an adult. And He was, and still is, faithful. He placed specific people in my life to keep me from going over the edge, while allowing me to stand dangerously close to it. He kept watch over me as I rebelled, never letting go, even as I spent my time getting dirty in the pig pen as a prodigal child (Luke 15: 16). He allowed my determination for perfection to continue until I reached a place of brokenness, realizing the ultimate truth. I. will. never. be. perfect. I was on a mission to reach an unreachable reality. There’s no one totally good person on earth…” (Ecclesiastes 7: 20)

It was here, in this broken, imperfect, messy place that I found my faith. God showed me HIS road to perfection. The road called GRACE. Even though I was not good enough. In spite of my failed attempts and mistakes. Because I was covered in brokenness and sin. Jesus Christ came to die. “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10: 14) Being good is not what God wants in exchange for his love. And the destruction that had taken over my life wasn’t going to change his offer. He wants nothing. It is just given freely, without earning it and without performing. The ruin of my perfectly broken life was complete, and for the first time I received the freedom that comes with knowing the truth. I can have God’s love completely and unconditionally, not because of what I had or hadn’t done, but because of Jesus.

My own journey of faith really began the moment I chose to accept the unconditional love of Christ shown by his gracious death on the cross. The hole in my heart has been filled with the only thing it was longing for, Jesus. That was the true beginning of my journey, and I have never looked back. “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Phil 3: 12) Anything good in me now is only because of the Grace of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. My self-destructive search to please others is replaced with a desire to show others their value in Christ. My strive for perfection is gone, what’s left in it’s place is my strive to know Jesus more and more.

The common ground we all stand on here at My Journey of Faith is that we want to share the love of Jesus with others by sharing His work in our lives. Each story is a testimony of God’s grace and faithfulness, which is only available to us because of Jesus Christ. Whether it is in overcoming doubt or fear, coping with overwhelming situations, or understanding what unconditional love really is, the underlying thread of every journey is having faith that Jesus Christ is who He says He is. And if I can tell you anything, my friends, it is that Jesus IS who He says He is. We pray that you too will take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of you…freedom from sin and bondage, an abundance of love, and a plan for your life. Thank you for sharing in our journeys, we hope that you begin to see Christ in every aspect of your own…and tell people about it.

 

   Carissa Hardage

 

A repost from My Journey of Faith Magazine.