Maybe you don’t know where I come from, but I grew up a preacher’s kid. It’s a weird thing to have people treat your dad like he’s a celebrity, or see them change their behavior or vocabulary when he shows up. You start picking up that you’re family isn’t the same as everyone else. At least it feels like there’s an expectation your family isn’t the same as everyone else’s family. Somewhere in the midst of growing up as I did, I got this feeling that I was supposed to be perfect. It’s weird because our family talked about the grace of God, and the faithfulness of Jesus a lot. So I shouldn’t have felt like that. But I did. Sometimes, it’s not what’s taught but what’s caught that sticks with you.
Now here’s the problem. I’m not perfect. I know you know. It probably sounds almost arrogant for me to say it, but if you have ever walked with the “burden of perfection” then you know it is a relief to just say those words. Anyway, I’m in the process of learning a new way of life. One of just being real about who I am and how I am. I’m very passionate about us all being real, but the person I struggle to be the most real with is the man in the mirror.
A few years ago, I read a book Rob Bell wrote called Sex God. He actually doesn’t talk much about sex. Rather, how God created us male and female and what it means to be human and live an authentic life of love in Christ. In that book is a chapter called Angels and Animals. Here is the summary of it.
Before God created human beings in His own image, He created angels and animals. Now, angels are known for being messengers of God. Either they are good or bad, but if an angel is good, they don’t seem to sin. They just praise the glory of God, fight for Him, and protect us.
Then there are animals. They are not perfect. Animals act on impulse. They live by desire. When they are hungry they eat. When they want to have sex, they have it right then. There isn’t much self-control in animals. They live through desire.
Finally, there is a third group: humans. That is what we are. We don’t get too opt out of being human.
Consider this: when you say about someone, “That person is an angel” it usually means that person is seen as basically perfect (or someone is throwing compliments around).
On the flip side, when someone is referred to as an animal, it isn’t a good thing. It’s basically saying self-control is out the window. They might be the life of the party, but you can’t necessarily trust them because they live more on impulse than anything else.
We aren’t angels and we aren’t animals. We’re in the middle. We’re full of desire, yet our purpose is to bring glory to God.
So back to the people I’m writing to…the people who feel like they’re supposed to be perfect. I’m going to share something, and if it pings you, feel free to share it with me.
Perfect is what I was trying to present to the world. I was trying to be an angel, but when my mind turned to sin, I felt the pressure of maintaining the appearance of perfection. So I felt like an animal on the inside, while trying to act like an angel to everyone on the outside. The harder I tried to be an angel, the more of an animal I became. Weird how that works, huh? Then a cycle of self-loathing sets in. If you’ve never done this, don’t. It is exhausting, and will steal your joy.
I think of the analogy Paul uses in 2 Corinthians about being jars. Eventually, the “jar of perfection” I held everything in cracked under the pressure of sin, and my sin seeped out.
What’s the answer then? Fix it right? Either repair the jar, or clean up the messes I made. That was exhausting. The jar was never fixed, and the more messes I tried to clean up, the more messes I created.
I am not perfect. When I get down to it, no one expects me to be. Sometimes, I still try to be. To look like I am. To give that presentation. I’m just one of many human beings who have walked this earth. Not an angel. Not an animal. A human being living in between both worlds. Flash and blood. Image bearer of the God of heaven. Created with human desires. Created as a spiritual being.
To the people who feel like you have to be perfect. You’re not alone. If you’ve convinced yourself that you are, you’ve just bought into a lie from the Devil. You’re not alone. It’s okay that you aren’t perfect. What’s not okay is pretending that you are. Share with someone today some of your dreams. Some of your struggles. Some of your doubts. Some of your questions. Some of your weakness. You don’t have to live exhausted. You can have something real that God intended you to have: life.