One hour to go before a couple thousand kids arrive. The workers are gathering. Our city is hosting a free Fun Fest day for the children in the community. I had volunteered to help through our local Dream Center.
But as the hour ticks down, we realize more volunteers are needed from the city than are showing up. Not good. We’ll each have to work harder and more intentional to cover all the centers.
So I tell our coordinator, Pastor Jamie:
Oh, I’ll do whatever you need.
Wherever you want me to work, I say. I’m in.
She says, Great—we need more face painters! Will you work this table?
Oh. Except that, I say.
I’m horrible at face painting. Anything but that.
My prior face painting experiences haven’t been pretty. I’m no artist.
But Holy Spirit stirs:
Didn’t you just say you’d do whatever was needed?
Face painting is needed.
Well, yes, but what I really meant to say was:
I’ll do anything I think I’m good at.
Anything I’m comfortable with.
Anything that doesn’t involve uncertainty or mess or confusion. Or glitter; definitely nothing with glitter.
The Problem with Perfectionism
But the thing about helping others is we don’t always get to match our skills with their needs. Our perfectionism can become their roadblock.
- Perfectionism can prevent us from trying new things.
- Perfectionism can stop us from meeting needs.
- Perfectionism can cause us to be overly critical–of ourselves and others.
And perfectionism can make us say no when the Spirit wants us to say yes.
I know I have to change my no to a yes.
I turn back to Pastor Jamie and say,
Sure, I’ll face paint. I can do this.
Sigh. I take a deep breath then cut out the stencils; I lay out my brushes; I open the paint jars. Yes, even the glittery ones.
3 Benefits of Releasing Perfectionism
And I start painting. Face after face. Hearts, footballs, stars, LOVE, flowers, flags.
Each child talks to me. I find out their favorite color, the sports teams they follow, how old they’re going to be on their next birthday.
And I realize: this is exactly what I wanted to do after all.
Life is a journey of practicing. Not perfecting.
- Let go of perfection to . . . learn new things.
When we do things we’re not necessarily good at, we are stretching. We are growing. Even if we fall down along the way. In our humility, we learn not only new things about ourselves, but also new things about God. When we trade in our perfection, we experience the grace of God’s provision.
- Let go of perfection to . . . help other people.
Most people don’t want our perfection anyway. They just want our attention. Our assistance. Our compassion.
“As the soul increases its strength, it can withstand increasing expressions of grace and God. Always the goal remains the same: to stretch the soul in preparation for becoming a container of divine love in the world.”
– Caroline Myss
- Let go of perfection to . . . honor God.
Holiness comes in many forms. In many expressions. It doesn’t always look like we expect. But when we do the thing in front of us, the thing God is calling us to do in the moment, even if we feel unprepared or inadequate, God is honored. I see him smiling.
There’s still a line of children waiting to have their faces painted. (Alas, my lack of skills didn’t deter anyone.) It’s time to break down the tables and clean up. We apologize.
I say good-bye to my fellow face-painters and hope we’ll cross paths again. Maybe at another face painting table. Or maybe at something else I’m horrible at.
But whatever I’m asked to do next, I hope my yes comes a little quicker. Because working imperfectly with God is more fulfilling than anything I could do perfectly on my own.
* * *
What will you this week that you can’t do perfectly? How do you deal with perfectionism? Please share in the comments.
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