By Ricinda Perry
Have you ever found yourself fussing over some of the silliest details racing back and forth, frantically staring at a speeding clock before some kind of event? Do you follow your child all day picking up after their messes to keep things in order? Do you see misplaced things lying around and feel the compulsion to keep it all in order? Do you spend a significant amount of time “redoing” something until you feel it is just right? I fall into this web of impossible expectations all the time. Only Christ is perfect, so why do I put that pressure on myself?
Here’s how it starts … I have a friend call and say they want to swing by for a few minutes to catch up. What should be an enjoyable surprise turns into a sweaty stress session. Immediately I jump up – grab a quick glance in the mirror to see that I have yesterday’s make-up running under my eyes and my hair is askew, but before I can attend to that, I’m distracted at something other than my reflection in the mirror … Toys are everywhere, work files are strewn across the counter along with the week of junk mail, bowls are stacked up in the sink, play dough remnants are everywhere, laundry baskets of (hopefully) clean clothes are stacked in the corner, dust has settled on my furniture, finger prints are all over my windows. Do you get the picture? Running to and fro, I spend the next hour in a tizzy trying to make my home, daughter and self presentable.
Having a toddler has worn down the perfectionist in me and forced me to roll with the punches. While still largely uncomfortable to part with, I have learned that my perfectionism has been a joy and time stealer for both me and my family, and it has created a lot of unnecessary stress in our lives. Don’t get me wrong, I still feel the blood drain from my face when the “bug guy” unexpectedly swings by our home to spray – only to find an embarrassing laundry casualty that I left behind in our bathroom for him to see.
Rather than running around barking orders and forcing my family to feed my perfectionism, I am learning that a disheveled home is just part of a lived in home. Those fingerprints on my windows show me that I have a little girl who enjoys seeing God’s creation on the other side. So what if there is a load of dirty dishes in my sink and a messy counter for my neighbor to see … I got to enjoy a quiet moment with my husband replenishing our relationship from the crazy demands of the week. Personally, I like having a tidy house and the perfectly drafted brief ready to file in Court, but the fact of the matter is, trading off perfectionism has given me so many more precious memories and moments to just breathe. I don’t have to Windex my counters every night, dust my furniture every other day, or scrub my floors every time they look a bit dirty. This is a burden I place on myself. My family and friends like me for me – not my home. My clients like me for my honest and hard work – not the color-coded file with documents that are typed with every period followed by a double space. When I reflect back on a visit with my family, I remember the talks we had and the things we did rather than the smell of Pine-sol in the air. That being said, I think I will let the two drinks on my coffee table sit there until morning as I head off to bed and spend some much needed time with my spouse, but before I do, the perfectionist side of me wants to leave you with this …
The story of Martha and Mary. Could there have been a more important guest than Jesus? Imagine how you would want the perfect home and perfect meal for Him. Martha ran with perfectionism while Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’ ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10:39-42).