I am a perfectionist. And I am married to a perfectionist. And we are raising three perfectionist children. Perfectionism leads to high expectations, which leads, in turn, to frustration and disappointment when the expectations go unmet (which, in this imperfect world filled with imperfect people, is often). In fact, my friend has a saying that has become one of my favorites, “Expectations are future disappointments.”
So many times, I find myself comparing myself to others. And don’t we all do this? We look at our spiritual walk, our homeschooling journey, our everyday lives and we compare them to others. But we can go on through life, not even realizing the high expectations we are putting on ourselves and those around us. One of the defining moments of my life came at a doctor’s visit not long ago. We go to an alternative practice, so they are a bit more thorough, addressing all areas of health. I remember the doctor stopped in the middle of her testing and said to me, “You’re really hard on yourself, aren’t you?” I looked at her, confused. I didn’t think I was hard on myself. But obviously, she was seeing something I was not.
That moment stuck with me. What did she see that I didn’t? Why would she say that? It caused me to stop and reevaluate my thinking and interactions with others. Over time, I began to see that I was hard on myself and my eyes were also gradually opened as to why. I thought about the times when people I dearly love have accused me of being selfish or not saying or doing the right things.
One specific incident that took place was with a family member who has certain assumptions about my actions, based on her memories of me when I was young, and when I did not do what was expected, she assumed the worst. I completely took on her condemnation, knowing that I am a selfish person, and in my mind I accepted that persona that she believed me to be. Her belief about me was powerful enough to affect my own. My entire focus was on my failure, forgetting that I actually had good intentions and motives, and that I am working on my selfishness and trying to be conformed to God’s image.
People change, but sometimes those changes are internal and not as obvious to others. I can see so many other times in my life when I have had a fault or sin pointed out to me and my reaction is to completely condemn myself, forgetting that Jesus already took on that condemnation! Perfection is His, and I am perfect in Him. I can’t deny my failures, but I don’t have to live there, either. Repent. Apologize. Move on.
Once I began to see that I was, in fact, hard on myself, I began to think about some of the reasons why. I was blessed to grow up in a Christian school my entire educational “career” with a lot of very sound theological training. I memorized many Scripture passages and was taught much over the years about Bible doctrine. So because of this, I knew that Holy Measuring Stick very well and I also knew that I did not measure up.
Law had been taught very thoroughly, but perhaps grace was lacking in some ways. “There is none righteous…” had been hammered into my head, but “there is therefore now no condemnation…” was perhaps not as emphasized. Our upbringing can have such a profound impact on our lives, and my upbringing had trained me to be critical of myself (and often others, as well) and to try to attain a perfection that only Jesus could.
“There is none righteous…” had been hammered into my head, but “there is therefore now no condemnation…” was perhaps not as emphasized.
In my bathroom, I have a decorative card that has Psalm 1:3 printed on it. It’s amazing how I can read a verse over and over and nothing significant jumps out at me, but one day, all the sudden it takes on new meaning! Such is the case with this verse. As I pondered it one day, it suddenly fit, like a puzzle piece, into the big picture of what I had been mulling over for so many months. Here is the entire passage:
1Blessed is the mana
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2but his delight is in the lawb of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
It suddenly struck me on this particular day, reading the verse for the 107th time, that there is a quiet freedom whispered here in verse 3. “That yields its fruit in its season.” I may not be where others are. I may fail over and over, but God has me on His unique growth program of sanctification for my life. I have born fruit in areas that others are still waiting on. And I am slow to bear it in some areas that I think I should have produced fruit a long time ago! But what freedom to know that I will yield my fruit in my own season! God wants to lift the burden of comparison from us and comfort us with this thought!
Remember today that we will each, like a tree planted by streams of water, yield our own fruit in our own seasons. Moms, you will yield the fruit of patience and longsuffering toward your children in your own season. Keep working toward it, but don’t despair when other moms seem to have this lifeschooling/homeschooling thing all figured out! Stay firmly planted by the streams of living water, daily talking to Jesus and taking your worries and concerns to Him. He will continue to grow you in His gracious timing. He does not expect all your fruit to appear overnight! He is a patient arborist.
He does not expect all your fruit to appear overnight! He is a patient arborist.
Our children, likewise, will yield the fruit of good character and academic achievement in their own seasons (not the seasons of others). There are fast trees that shoot up quickly. And there are slower trees, whose roots go down deep, who grow slowly, but whose branches will shoot up skyward in God’s own good timing. We must, like Him, be faithful, patient arborists who do not expect to see fruit immediately after the tree begins to sprout.
Bear your fruit in your season, dear one. And allow those dearest to you to do the same. Let go of the perfectionism and comparison and just allow God to be the great arborist of your life that He wants to be! It is a beautiful freedom to bear fruit in His ordained time. And a beautiful freedom to allow our children the same grace.