Sunday, December 9, 2012

25 Days of Christmas Presence—Day 8

(Day 7 will be posted. I had some technical difficulties transporting my husband's post on Peace. )

Eight days in of writing Christmas Devotions and I’m struggling. Suddenly panic sets in; I can feel it humming just under the tips of my fingers. There’s a litany of naysaying voices in my head.

What new thing can you say about Christmas? What could you possibly say that hasn’t already been said? What insight could you possibly share that wasn’t someone else’s epiphany first? What new revelation could you possibly bring to this millennium old history?

This isn’t about me sharing something new.

This is about sharing the truth.

I am a perfectionist. A first-born, only child. A female. And this issue of mine affects a great deal in my life; I would be embarrassed to tell. But one place it shows up alarmingly and ridiculously is when our family puts up the Christmas tree.

Every year I am on a mission to create the perfect Christmas tree. I want it to look cozy, but elegant. No frou-frou, mind you. I have this hidden agenda to create a tree that if Better Homes and Gardens were to get wind of it they would want to put on the cover of their December issue. As our minister says, “Pray for me.”

My daughters and husband can attest to this. They know. Ask them. I have ornaments for the back of the tree, filler ornaments, bottom, middle and top tier ornaments. And I have ornaments that only I put on the tree. I set these ornaments out in groupings. The girls pretty much know which ornaments go where. And lights. I’m not sure I want to expose my obsession with the lights.

Oh, might as well. I want them scattered on every branch, woven deeply in the tree, and I prefer all color or all white. Not a combination. My husband is an engineer and a mathematician. If anyone could put lights on a tree, this man could do it. In his mind he can take the circumference of the tree, multiply it by the height, allow for the narrowing of the tree and decide how many strands of lights we need to adequately light our tree. Then he would multiply it by three. Just for me. (He really does love me.)

Not long ago my husband was talking with his mother on the phone. I could not hear her side of the conversation, but I assume she asked if we had put up our tree. My husband laughed. He explained to her that he was going to find out what day I had chosen and put the tree together and the lights on the day before. I realized when I heard this conversation, though it was truly in fun and my husband really was only teasing, that I had a problem.

Now my Perfectionism issue in this particular arena doesn’t really hurt anyone. Oh, I’m sure it annoys my daughters. Perhaps, irritates my husband. But in reality they chalk it up as another one of Mama/Tamera’s quirks. No, this one doesn’t hurt anyone, and if this were the only place perfectionism attempted to reign in my life it would just be comical.

But Perfectionism rears her ugly head unexpectedly and routinely in way too many places in my life. And in the other places it does cause problems. Hard ones. Hurtful ones. Hateful ones.

Early in my faith, and even later, I lived in a near panic. I read and heard Jesus’ words, …be perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect.*

And my definition of perfection would be inserted into his exhortation. It was and is a cruel and hard definition.

If one tiny thing is wrong then all is wrong. If there is a typo or misspelled word then the writing has no value, if there is a wrong word or action then the situation is futile, if the food is not as tasty or savory as my expectations then it is a failure. The if theres could fill pages.

Perfectionism is a demanding, crippling master.

Perfectionism has a nasty voice in my head. She is the naysayer. The negator.

But this God who loves me would not allow me to remain in this nightmare. He knew the toll it was taking on me and those around me. It was unhealthy because it was turning too introspective. Too critical. Too harsh. I lived in a constant state of despair because according to my definition I just couldn’t get or do anything completely right.

But this beautiful, incredible and marvelous God changed my definition.
During one of my study times several years ago I began to follow the word perfect through Scripture.

I learned that the word perfect in Scripture is not the same as my or our culture’s definition.

The meaning of perfect in the languages Isaiah, Jesus and Paul used is alarmingly, comfortingly different.

It means: complete, of full age, mature, whole.

Glory! This was my epiphany.

I read this definition over and over. I remember searching and looking and studying longer, deeper. I was like a thirst-driven woman who had found a spring and just kept drinking—so very afraid that the water was just going to disappear.

Suddenly when I read Jesus’ words I no longer panicked. I no longer went numb with fear.

Be perfect (whole, complete, mature, of full age) just as my heavenly Father is perfect (whole, complete, mature, of full age).

This is one of the most freeing revelations of my life. I still struggle. There are still times my definition superimposes what I know to be true of real perfection. When this happens the Spirit reminds me of the reality of the word. He reminds me of what I have been taught. Of what I now know:

Jesus came, eternal God born as a man-child, in order to live and die and make us whole.

Jesus came, infinite God wrapped in the blanket flesh of a newborn, in order to change our definitions.

Jesus came, mighty God willingly enveloped in limitation, in order to make us complete.

Jesus came, glorious God compressed in the weight of a baby, in order to bring us to full age.

This Christmas God is whispering to you.

He wants his voice to be heard above the naysayers—even if your own voice is the loudest. Only His voice speaks the truth. He wants you to understand that he came to make you perfect.

He came to make you of full age (mature).

He came to make you complete.

He came to make you whole.

Yes, perfect. Just as he is.

And that is why he sent Jesus—so that it would be possible.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your truth. Please keep changing our definition. Keep closing our ears to the negators and open our ears to you. Don’t let us forget. Don’t let us return to Perfectionism’s tyranny. Thank you that no amount of our own perfectionism can negate what you think about us. Thank you that our own naysayers can be quenched with the truth of your Word. Thank you that we do not have to adhere to our own definitions or the world’s. Thank you that instead we can exchange ours for the reality of yours.              Amen

Daily activity: Read the following Scriptures. Replace the word perfect with the new definitions from above. Ask God to change the definitions that you have warped or just simply wrong.

Matthew 5:48
Isaiah 26:3
Colossians 1:28

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