There is a fine line between wanting to do things well and being enslaved to your own or someone else’s unreasonable expectations. When we fall into the trap of basing our identity, sense of self, and value on our performance (or other’s perceptions of our performance) we begin to see perfection as the one big thing that could help us find true happiness and meaning. It is a trap and we know it, at least we do if we take the time to think about it. How many of us expect a baby to go directly from crawling to walking with no falling. Falling is just a part of the process. Imagine the 11 month old who tries to walk, falls down, and thinks to themselves, “I can’t do this walking thing, I’m giving up!” It’s a ludicrous idea, but sometimes we do the equivalent in our own lives, seeing failure as our final destination instead of just a part of the journey.

Years ago when I started trying to write some poems, I came up with one that still bounces around in my head. It’s not a good poem, but it’s a part of the journey. Let me show you what I mean.

If you want to write a good poem
Then you’ll have to write the bad
For every group of ten bad poems
One good one will be had
So settle down and do it
Grab your pencil and your pad
If you want to write a good poem
Then you’ll have to write the bad

Richard Rohr once said, “The steps to maturity are, by their very nature, immature.” If this is true, and I am saying that it is, we have to get used to failure as a routine part of life. Several years ago I coached a basketball player who had tons of potential and drive to be a great player. All that she needed was experience. But she wasn’t great yet, so her experience was riddled with mistakes. It’s was very discouraging and on more than one occasion she told me, “I can’t do this.” But I encouraged her by saying “You have a certain number of mistakes you have to make on the way to being better, so keep going and get those mistakes out of the way.” Three years later she is the team captain and leading scorer, all because she hung in there through the mistakes she had to make along the way.

Yesterday at church I spoke on Matthew’s call to be a disciple. He had nothing to offer, but Jesus welcomed him to follow. So he followed, just as he was. We have to stop trying to “arrive” at some mystical spot where we are good enough and start trusting that God knows we have nothing to offer Him and calls us anyway. It’s the voices of condemnation in your head that keep telling you that you will never get this right that want to hold you back. Sometimes you just need to tell them to shut up, and let God welcome you to Himself, as you really are, not as you wish you were. Let me leave you with another poem and then you decide. Am I going to be enslaved to perfection, or start following a God who loves me through my imperfection to something greater?

is a stubble-tongued whore
who clacks her bedroom
slipper false-teeth
and twitches well-oiled hips
you coulda done more
you shoulda done better
if only and if only
you’d sweated harder, never slept, tried again,
double-checked, revised, replaced
been worthy
deserved to be right
it would all have fallen
into place
by now.
— If Only by Constance Lee Menefee
Jeff Kuhn2 Comments