He Needs Room, Not Perfection

“Mom, will you write Jesus down for me so I know how to spell it?” Hadley asked. She continued on with her plan, “I’m going to write him a note.”

“Of course,” I responded with surprise. My daughter proceeded to set up her spot at the kitchen table. Colored construction paper, stickers, and our bucket of markers were carefully arranged. Finally, she settled herself down in the chair.

She started drawing figures on her paper. “What color is Jesus’ hair?” She looked up at me curiously as I wrote down J-E-S-U-S on a notecard and slid it in front of her.

“Brown hair.” I took a swig of water, “Here, I’ll get your bible and we can look at the picture.” I grabbed her children’s bible from the kids’ bookcase and flipped to the new testament. There was an illustration of Jesus showing his typical smile, long brown hair, flowing robe, and outstretched arms, that you so often see in children’s bibles. “There, see,” I pointed out, “brown hair.”

Hadley glanced at the picture to confirm and then continued on with her drawing. I stood there wondering what had brought on this sudden urge to write Jesus a note. This idea was somehow laid on Hadley’s heart and she had responded by taking action. I was so proud of her. So often, when things are laid on our hearts, they are sudden and almost out of nowhere. She must have felt that she needed to speak to Jesus.

One of Hadley’s favorite things to do lately is draw pictures or write notes to her family and friends. The people she loves most dearly get these special art creations from her. And now Jesus, was one of them. This was her way to show Him that she loved Him.

“I hope the mailman will be able to get this to Him.” Hadley continued coloring in her and Jesus standing together. I wanted to tell her, “He’s already got it sweetheart. He already knows everything in your heart. We don’t even need to mail it.” But I also wanted to continue to support her desire to mail this letter and complete this act of worship for Christ.

“I’ll get an envelope. Then you can write His name on the front.”  I suggested.

“I’ll draw a house on a cloud too.” she concluded.

“Good idea.” I grinned. “This is the sweetest thing ever,” I thought to myself. My heart was full.

A few minutes later, as Hadley was starting to decorate the front of the envelope, sounds of frustration could he heard. “Uhhhh, No!” she cried.

I approached the kitchen table, “What is it?”

“I can’t get the J right! It has to be perfect!” Hadley explained. She started to write her J again, the hook was getting her caught up. She must have wanted it to look exactly like mine. Again, I thought to myself what I wanted to say to her, “It doesn’t have to perfect. Jesus loves this gift you’ve given Him.” Only this time instead of keeping the thought to myself, I had to share.

“Hadley, it doesn’t have to perfect. That is the wonderful thing about Jesus. He doesn’t expect perfection from us. Just try your best. It’s the thought that matters.”

“Uhhh, no! It has to be perfect!” She declared again. I realized in that moment, I just had to step back and let her wrestle with it. I had said my piece, but she was in the thick of it and hadn’t really heard what I was trying to say.

After several attempts, she was satisfied enough with her J. She had moved on, added the final touches on her envelope and note. I was still stuck on her frustration though. What brought on this need for perfection?

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I’ve never thought of myself as a perfectionist. I can let little things go. In my career, as a teacher, I feel many educators tend to lean towards the perfectionist personality type, although not all.  I remember one group activity in particular during a staff meeting where we had to make a poster about… something (okay the details of the group assignment fail me). Someone had asked me to write. Somehow I always get stuck writing on these dang group posters. I do not have neat teacher handwriting. I am not a perfectionist and my handwriting is crap. I am also left-handed, so my hand just drags past my letters smearing the ink on the paper and my hand,  but I always end up having to write on these lovely group charts. At any rate, we had been listing bullet points to go with whatever the main idea of our poster was. I started creating bullet points for things we hadn’t written in yet, only to discover we had one pre-created bullet point left and no other details to add. Did this bother me? No. “Let’s make it into a star.” I suggest. “I’ll just cross it out.” Looks of sheer horror and disgust were thrown my way. I could see some teachers in my group grappling with what to put with that last unclaimed bullet point! I was however, done and completely satisfied with our task.

While I declare I am not a perfectionist, that I am easy going and don’t feel the need to control everything, my husband might argue differently with me. He and I love the tv show Friends. We constantly throughout our ten years of marriage and dating before that, have shot back and forth Friends related quotes and banter. I always thought of myself as a Rachel. But my husband was quick to correct me. “No, no. You’re most definitely a Monica. You’re Monica, with the looks of Rachel, and the appetite of Joey.”

I totally agree. He’s right. I’m Monica. I like things neat and clean. I don’t like clutter. Bins are my jam. My kids will have memories of putting away toys in bins for years to come. If I were to choose a category where I am closest to being a perfectionist, it is definitely keeping a tidy home. This is why the mantra, “It’s better than it was,” is so helpful to me while I clean and organize. This is why I am trying to delight in my children at this age and embrace the crunching beneath my feet as I walk across the kitchen floor.

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So this brings me to my question. If Jesus doesn’t expect perfection from us, why do we expect it of ourselves? I’m not sure. It can be exhausting to expect perfection from yourself or from others. I recently read a quote from Ruth Chou Simons @gracelaced: ”So fluff, fold, and tidy up in this season, but more importantly- let’s have decluttered hearts that prepare Him room.” She was referencing this holiday season and the need we can sometimes feel to have our homes perfectly decorated and prepared. It struck me because this is an area of weakness for me where perfectionism can rear its ugly head. Rather than focusing on outward tidying of things, more importantly, my heart needs to be tidied and uncluttered. I need to make room for Jesus, just as my daughter did when she wrote Him her love note. I hope I can continue to encourage Hadley that Jesus doesn’t expect perfection from her and nor do I. Jesus doesn’t expect a perfect heart. He just needs room to be there.

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