This semester I decided to take beginning French. Why not! I had been to two francophone countries (France and Haiti) and knew very little about the language. Plus, it’s my last semester and I have nothing but electives to kill. So, I went for it.
One day in class, the professor was having us do a couple of speaking activities so we could work on pronunciation. (Side note: If you know nothing about French, know that it usually is not pronounced like it looks on the page.) Naturally, most of us in the class kept looking dumbfounded at the words unsure of where to begin. Left and right students were asking Hannah, our professor, how to say various words and phrases. (Another side note: I promise there is a biblical principle coming your way shortly!)
Instead of giving us the answer, Hannah encouraged us to give it our best attempt until she had finally had enough of all the running back and forth nonsense. She went to the front of the room and said, “Okay…here is a good life lesson for you all. You are going to make mistakes. It is part of life. As the French say, ‘C’est la vie.’”
C’est la vie. It’s life. You are going to make mistakes. It is part of the human condition to make mistakes, and being afraid of making mistakes might be the biggest mistake of all. When we are afraid to make mistakes and live in fear of doing the wrong thing, we live small. We become emotional hermits and hide some of our best assets for the Kingdom.
I bring this up because the idea of perfection has been on my mind a lot lately. I was one of the students asking how to pronounce French words with all of their arbitrary letters. I’ve had conversations with many people recently about the oldest sibling complex that almost demands an obsession for perfection. So many of inner conflicts throughout my short life have come from the fear of anything short of perfection whether I consciously knew I was doing that or not. A wise friend even told me one time that I put a lot of pressure on myself.
Somehow, at some point, we started to put the burden of perfection on ourselves. We adopted a drive to overachieve. The desire to be all things, to all people, at all times. When it comes down to it, we developed this need for perfection—to be perfect, to possess perfect, to have everything be completely and unmistakably pristine and perfect. We would go to great lengths to do all the right things. We would act the right way in the right situations. We took on the burden of perfection.
It isn’t until later in life that you realize the weight of perfection is too much to bear.
It wasn’t until that semester in college.
It wasn’t until that first internship.
It wasn’t until that first real job.
It wasn’t until that relationship.
It wasn’t until that first anxiety attack.
It wasn’t until you realized you were always tense.
It wasn’t until you realized that you lived in fear.
And then you realized it was all too much.
Flaws are part of being human. Mistakes are part of life. Whether you are trying to be “all things to all men” (1 Corinthians 9:19) in the most impossible way or there are sins and temptations that seem impossible to overcome, you will never be perfect and that’s okay.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Christ has already breached the gap, making us perfect with his grace so stop seeking perfection for the sake of achieving perfection. But that doesn’t mean we can keep sinning when we know it’s wrong.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
You are going to mess up. We are all going to mess up, but that doesn’t mean that we stop trying to live the life God has called us to live. It just means that when we fall short, when we make mistakes, we can look to Christ and know that he has closed the gap between our imperfection and the perfection we desire. As was once described to me, if life is the test, then grace is the curve.