On the Side: February 2020
by Sharon Chatwell
I have spent the majority of my adult life trying to be perfect. That is a terrible admission to make, but those who know me will say it’s true. Never able to relax, and hardly ever able to lean back and rely on Jesus to be good enough for me.
Recently I have come to the realization that this is the case, and I would like to say once and for all that now I understand I don’t have to be perfect, nor do I have to be “good enough”…either to save myself or to have eternal life. It is all because of who Jesus is and what He did for me.
I have known this for years, for decades in fact. I have written lessons, talks and articles telling others that Jesus is the only way to be saved and we can rely on His goodness, His perfection and His sacrifice to save us.
But somehow, when I turned and looked at myself, all I could do was shake my head and say, “You really need to do better, girl.”
I suppose each of us has a front-row seat at our own show. We are the only ones who can actually see behind the curtain and know what’s really going on back there. Other people may be fooled, but we know who we really are.
And that intense scrutiny, which leads to the finding of all of our faults, can leave us feeling sad and lonely and hopelessly separated from others, who seem to have their acts together.
Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins” (NASB). These words are echoed in Romans 3:10-12, “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God…There is none who does good, There is not even one” (NASB).
I can relate to those verses. I know I fall into the category of “none righteous, not even one.” I know this because I have tried, and I have failed.
Doctor-types fall into this category as well, although they will try and fail also. It is my belief that doctors are often driven to perfectionism. There is so much studying, so much trying to be good enough, especially in medical school. And then there is a long list of seemingly impossible things to accomplish in residency and other training programs. If you aren’t a perfectionist going into medicine, you have plenty of opportunities to become one.
Let’s face it. We are married to people who have to get it right every time or people die. Well…they might not die. They just might not get well. Or they may get worse. Or they may not get well as fast as they could have. Anyway, there can be negative consequences. And they know this.
In my experience, doctors’ wives are usually very accomplished, articulate people, who in their own rights could be running a small country somewhere. As a rule, we tend to be people who strive to get it right every time as well. And that can be hard, with all the responsibilities that come along with taking care of a family and home, while our husbands are off stamping out disease.
In general, I believe we could be kinder to ourselves. We could look at the Lord Jesus Christ and say, “You know, I’m going to let you be the perfect One today.” That would be a lot more biblically correct as well.
We waste a lot of time and effort picking on ourselves and demanding perfection of ourselves or of our children…or even of our husbands! Isn’t it better to give grace to others and to ourselves, just the way God has done?
Surely, perfection is something to which we are called. In Matthew 5:48 Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (NASB). Jesus calls us to perfection, but He does not expect us to come up with it on our own. In Galatians 2:20 Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (NASB.)
So, this perfect life to which we are called is simply Jesus Christ living in us; honoring God and reaching out to the world around us in peace and love. We aren’t to try and be perfect by keeping “the law” or by “good works.” Paul is clear about that in Galatians 3:3 “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (NASB).
Philippians 1:6 reassures us that God will continue the process of sanctifying our lives, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (NASB).
So, relax! God knows what He is doing. Did you mess up today or yesterday? Go to God, smile and say, “I’m sorry, Father. Thank you for forgiving me! Thank you for loving me and making me new! Thank you for living in me. Please help me to rely on you and your perfection!”
Then it will be He and not you who is living this perfect life within you, and you can concentrate on rejoicing in it and thanking Him for it.
Sharon is an imperfect housewife and physician’s spouse living in beautiful Lincoln, Nebraska. She encourages each of you to extend grace and love to yourself, so that you can more easily extend it to others as well. She promises to try and do the same!