Editor’s note: Emily Ley’s new book Near the Night is a perfect read especially for those of us who struggle with sleep. These meditations on God’s peace and rest will help you turn off your worries and remember God’s goodness. Enjoy this excerpt:
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God — Romans 3:23
When my oldest son was born, the first few weeks went by in a blur. Between learning how to breastfeed, managing mountains of laundry, and coping with sleep deprivation (that precious child never wanted to sleep), I was barely getting by. But once the postpartum fog wore off and we regained a little semblance of normalcy (read: he started sleeping consistently through the night), I set out to prove that I could be a work-from-home mother and wife who accomplished great things, kept her house neat and tidy, had dinner on the table every night at six o’clock, and raised a perfectly well-behaved child.
I’m sure you can see where this is going.
I had created this standard in my head of what “a good wife and mom” looked like. Quite literally, from what her appearance looked like to how her child behaved to how she navigated her life. “She” was perfect. I, however, was real.
My attempts to attain this level of perfection kept me from living the life God was calling me to live. He didn’t create that standard for me (in fact, He didn’t expect me to be perfect in all those ways at all). Instead, I’d allowed social media, the outside world, and my own fantasies to hold me to a standard that was impossible to reach.
- It was only when I realized that no one was expecting perfection from me that I was able to loosen up, to get comfortable with mess, and to find joy in the journey.
Where in your life are you expecting yourself to reach a standard of perfection? What would it look like to be good and joyful in that area, rather than perfect?
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. — Philippians 4:13 NKJV
As a writer, I love the feeling of holding a finished book in my hands. But the process of writing is sometimes quite painful. I question myself and my abilities, stare out the window, find anything to do to procrastinate what needs to be done.
But God is teaching me to get comfortable with the doing, not just the done. Finished products are easy to celebrate. We reflect on our hard work, and we have something (hopefully) wonderful to show for it.
But the doing... that’s another story. God is teaching me to be excellent at the process and to enjoy it along the way. God doesn’t want me to only celebrate having accomplished things, but to celebrate the forward momentum.
What’s the art or skill He’s calling you to practice?
Perhaps you’re a teacher. A graduating class is fantastic, but the hours you spent instructing your students — that is your art, your work, your daily practice.
Are you a nurse? Having a patient fully healed is worthy of a party. But the act of replacing bandages and tending to those who are ill—that is your art. That is your skill honed through thousands of hours of practice at work.
Are you a mother? Celebrating milestones is fantastic, but celebrating the work of mothering is where true discipleship happens. The patient words, the books read. This is the art of living into your calling, day after day.
What is your work? Your art? How can you celebrate the process of doing as much as you celebrate the end result?
Progress, Not Perfection
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. — 2 Corinthians 5:17
Have you ever set out to make a change, only to fall short and have to begin again? Day Ones are so hard. The beginning of a new project, the start of a new workout plan, or the day you decided to end the addiction.
Recently, I worked with a nutritionist to learn how certain foods affected me and to develop better eating habits to help fuel my body for all that life requires of it. I did great for a few weeks, then off the wagon I fell. (Sometimes, it’s just so hard to say no to nachos.) I threw caution to the wind for a while, until my body started reminding me how terrible it feels when I’m consistently making poor choices.
And so here I am, and my Day One begins again. After all, it’s progress I’m after, not perfection. A year from now, I’ll be glad I got back on the wagon. If you’re staring at Day One, too, I feel you. So begin something today that future-you will be grateful for. Because
- it’s never too late to begin again.
What do you need to begin again? Will tomorrow be your next Day One? Don’t forget: God has made you strong and courageous And He’ll give you strength so you won’t grow weary in doing the good work you’ve been called to do.
The Weight of Perfection
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. — Hebrews 12:1
Hi, my name is Emily, and I am a struggling perfectionist.
Even as I write those words, I squirm a little because I am still very much battling my perfectionist tendencies. I’d like for my home to be spotless, my inbox to be sorted, and my children to be wonderfully behaved at all times, pretty please. Also, I would like to have abundant energy, flawless skin, and wear the jeans I wore in college. Thank you.
And yet, while I’m able to achieve some of those things some of the time (minus the jeans from college), I’m never able to achieve all of them at the same time. And even when I’m able to achieve one of them, I’ve sometimes realized that perfection wasn’t worth the cost.
In those moments I often ask myself,
Can I choose good instead of perfect?
Good is a lived-in home. A space with storage and systems, baskets for blankets, boxes for toys, and a junk drawer for quickly cleaning off the kitchen counter. Our home isn’t perfect at all times, but it’s lived in. It’s full of love. It’s flexible and messy and real. And that is so much better than perfect.
I carried the weight of perfectionism for a long time It is a heavy weight to carry and an unachievable, unmaintainable standard to aspire to What weight are you carrying right now? What would your life look like if you laid that weight aside?
Excerpted with permission from Near the Night by Emily Ley, copyright Emily Ley.
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Do you struggle with perfectionism? Do you feel bad about yourself because you can’t do it all, or don’t do it all well, or have it all together? That’s not God’s expectation of you and it’s not fair to do it to yourself! Come share your thoughts on letting the weight of perfectionism go. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full