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Category Archives: Ann Voskamp

Thursday’s Truth – I Am Not Perfect

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perfectionism

I know this topic is not original among bloggers and authors out there. I’m not even going to tell you what you’ve probably already read a million times. I’ll just tell you what I think about this from my perspective, from my story, and hope it doesn’t add to the noise but rather that it enlightens someone who might need my words, my heart, to bring truth to your story as God is using it to bring truth to mine.

I’m reading Lysa TerKeurst’s book, The Best Yes. I’ve mentioned that in a previous post, I think. I’m also going through the study with about 70 women from our church. I arrived at the study this week, parked my car strategically for a hasty exit should I need one, and sat in the parking lot for about 10 minutes watching the women file in. Some alone. Some with friends. But pretty much all of them seemed happy to be there. Those 10 minutes for me were spent mustering up the courage to open my car door.

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Maybe some of the other women did the same thing. Who knows. But because I’m a grown up and I know how to do grown up things, I put my big girl panties on and opened my door and walked into a building with about 70 other women all seeming happy to be there and chatting with one another. What holds me back more often than not is being found out. Someone figuring out what a mess I really am. Someone noticing that I am not perfect and worse, me facing the reality that I am not perfect. I don’t tell you this to feel sorry for me. I tell you this, all of this, as an emptying of myself in hopes that it will fill someone else, That in my telling, someone else might be able to muster the courage to put their big girl panties on their imperfect self, grab the door handle, breathe deep and go.

I’m not a newbie to large group bible studies. I’ve led them, participated in them, written them, taught them, you name it. But it seems like over the last several years fear has enveloped me in a way I couldn’t pin point each time I tried to get involved in a bible study group. The courage and sheer will of all I could muster would get me there but nothing could keep me there.

This past Tuesday at the study, I’ve actually made it 3 weeks in a row!, I sat on what I thought would be the back row of a grouping of round tables. Well, wouldn’t you know that the facilitator came and sat right. by. me. This means that all eyes would be on her and thus, all eyes would be on me unless they had zero peripheral vision. Ugh… I’m convinced God has a sick sense of humor. I say that in all reverence. haha! But isn’t it just like Him to know right where we are and do whatever it takes to not let us stay there?

Decision to stay the same

Tuesday’s lesson was about “showing up to practice”. The way to be a wise woman is to practice being wise. One of the questions was about perfectionism. I don’t remember exactly how it was worded, but it made me think about my own history of perfectionism. Why did I feel this way. Why is perfectionism an issue for me?  I have no clue why so much is written about perfectionism and we know well the lie that it is, but we continue to live in it. Perfectionism is unattainable. It sets us up for failure all. day. long. It is so unfair to expect perfection of ourselves or others, yet we do it all. day. long.

The question or statement up for discussion was something about hindrances that we face in practicing wisdom. I spoke up to the group, which is as rare a cold day in July. Actual words with sound came out of my mouth sharing that although some people don’t struggle with perfectionism, some of us were raised that way. Teachings in my church upbringing played a big role in my tendencies toward perfection. I mean, how often did I have the scripture “Be perfect as Jesus was perfect.” spoken over me with the weight of that 20 lb family bible that sits on the entry table? Matthew 5, The Beatitudes, is this whole long list of rules, we Southern Baptist folk love our rules. I don’t mean that in a bad way because rules are good. We need rules. Rules create order and a lot of us like order. Order is a good thing. But all too often in the church we are taught rules over grace. Legalism over love. Expectations over excellence. And all too often, the balance in these gets off kilter.

Combine the teachings and upbringing in the church with being raised in a home environment of high expectations combined with a personality of insecurity and desperately wanting to measure up, to be enough… and you have on your hands a recipe for disaster. You have on your hands an almost 50 year old who knows more fear than freedom.

What I’ve come to discover is that perfectionism is at its core is fear. Perfectionism is performance-based. Perfectionism is a lie from the depths of hell.

and… drum roll please….

I am not perfect.

And I don’t have to be.

And neither do you!

Living in the freedom of not being perfect doesn’t give us excuses to disregard right living. We shouldn’t taunt and abuse grace. God treats us both lovingly and justly based on the posture of our heart. In realizing our inability to be perfect we can let go of the life of fear. We can let go of continually trying to achieve something that is humanly unattainable. Lysa T. teaches in her study that we need to release to receive. We simply cannot hold all of this at the same time. Some of it we simply should not be holding in the first place.

What about Matthew 5 you ask? “Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48 Well, it turns out that it’s really not a list of rules. It’s a list of love. Jesus gives us this list to show us how to live well and to love well, not to be perfect. I’m not scholar but now when I read “Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” I now read “Be perfect in love as your Heavenly Father is perfect in love.” And it’s not even that I have to be perfect in that because well, I am not God. I cannot be perfect. It is a human impossibility. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, but it does mean we should realize that we should let go of the misconception and unrealistic expectation that we can achieve it. Matthew 5:48 and others like it, like 1 Peter 1:15-16 which calls us “to be holy like I am holy”, tells us to be LIKE God, not to BE God. Did you just exhale relief with me? I sure hope so! There is such freedom in this!

Today, I choose to focus on progress over perfection. On love over legalism. On grace over rules. On excellence, not expectations.

Now I will go tell myself this like a broken record today because almost 50 years of mental and emotional perfectionism and fear-based scripts run deep. On this particular day, fear grips me. I started writing this post at 3:30am because I woke up in the grip of fear. I got up because staying in bed, in the darkness would set my mind into a pattern I know all too well. Fear of not being the perfect wife. Fear of not being the perfect mom. Fear of not being the perfect friend. Fear of not being the perfect writer. Fear of losing something that I’ve held firmly and can no longer hold on my own. Fear of letting go of my past and the pain and hurt (turned anger) that has become my constant companion for so long. And if I let that go, the fear of the unknown replacement. Fear of leaning into and embracing a not so perfect future. Fearful that even God may not be able to handle this. Yep, I just said that. I just said that I don’t trust God with some of this (I’m not proud of that, btw). Fear feeds me/us the lie that I have to be in control. That even God cannot be trusted. Goodness, think about Adam and Eve and that slippery serpent. Isn’t that why we’re so messed up in the first place??? Perfectionism, fear, control, performance-based living… none of that is real living. It’s all a lie that, like Ann Voskamp said, “will kill your soul” – will kill my soul and it’s done a pretty good job of that so far. I am intimately in touch with the feeling of an underwhelmed soul. While our bodies are finite, our soul is not. We only get one soul and it is eternal. Lysa T., in The Best Yes, talks about how we spend our souls. Lord, help me spend it well.

“If you think that something has to be perfect to be excellent, it’ll never happen. Perfectionism is an ideal. It doesn’t exist in the real world.” ~Michael Hyatt

PRACTICE DOES NOT MAKE PERFECT (whoever said that is a perfect idiot and I’d like to perfectly punch them in their perfect face). But practice does put us on the path to progress.

While practice doesn’t make perfect, it won’t hurt to try. Not trying is like dying. But I won’t be setting my bar for perfection, only progress. Today, I will show up to practice.

~Andrea

Here are some additional resources to encourage you on your quest for progress, not perfection.

Exposed, Robins Corner

How Women Can Stop Judging Each Other, Ann Voskamp

Rejection of “The Self”, Musings of a Sister

The Blessing of Crumbs on the Floor, MrsDisciple

An Open Hand, Bravely Imperfect

Battle Scars, Bravely Imperfect

Obeying God for the Wrong Reasons, MrsDisciple

Escape Perfectionism Once and for All, Michael Hyatt (video)

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards, Jen Hatmaker

The Best Yes, Lysa TerKeurst

Our Possible Choice

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I have another post in the works but when I read this heart story from Ann Voskamp, my words seemed ridiculous. I feel paralyzed but at the same time like I can’t possibly sit still. Those words I started writing will just have to be for another day. I have to share this. Have to.

And you have to read it. Have to.

What if our possible choice is
someone else’s impossible choice?


The following words are from Ann’s post,

Into Iraq #2: What the News isn’t telling You & Why We Can’t Afford to Pretend It’s Not Happening [Sozan’s Impossible Choice — and Our Very Possible One]

We aren’t where we are, to just peripherally care about the people on the margins as some superfluous gesture or token nicety. The exact reason why you are where you are — is to risk everything for those being oppressed out there.

You are where you are — to help others where they are. The reason your hands are where they are in this world — is to give other people in this world a hand.

Caring isn’t a Christian’s sideline hobby. Caring is a Christian’s complete career.

We don’t just care about people — caring about people is our job — the job every single one of us get up to do every single day. That’s it. Caring is our job, our point, our purpose. We’re here to care like a boss.

Because God forbid, you don’t get a roof over your head, food on your table and the safety of no bullets shattering your windows because you deserve more — you only get all that so that you get to serve more.

God forbid, you don’t get to live a comfortable life because you’re better — you only get your life so you get to make someone else’s life better with a bit of comfort.

God forbid, you don’t want to climb a ladder up to the American dream, when you could throw a lifeline down to people living your worst nightmare.

This is your possible choice.


Back to my words now:

My possible choice is someone else’s impossible choice. This concept breaks me. Having traveling to several impoverished areas of the world, I’ve thought a lot about why they were born there and why I had been given the gift of being born in the US. I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t ask for it. It was a gift. I’m not sure why but I’ve never really thought about it being a responsibility. Not with this much weight anyway. I’ve been careful to be grateful, but there is more. Because it’s not about me being blessed. It’s about me being a blessing.

I know that in some cases, maybe even most, those with less really do have more but this is not the case in Iraq. just ask those parched and hungry moms in the shipping container who had to choose which kids to take from one bad situation to another and which kids to leave behind.

When you and your people are being gunned down, you can cram 28 people into a getaway car — but where do you put the 29th? the 30th? Space is finite. There’s a hell on earth that can feel infinite. True, you’ve got to shoehorn yourself into the car because the baby needs you running liquid into their hunger as milk — but how do you turn to your boy and say — “We can’t get you in, Son. There’s no more room, Son.” There are words you lose in translation. Who in the world has categories for this? ~Ann Voskamp

This empties my plate. I honestly don’t know what God wants me to do with this beyond sharing it with you, but I’m reaching out my hands.

Every single one of us can start changing headlines
when we start reaching out our hands.

I hope you’ll take the time to read Ann’s entire post. There is so much more that you need to know.

~Andrea