Anyone else have those things as a kid you assumed you’d grow out of when you became an adult, but found out as an adult that you don’t grow out of something unless you actively work on growing?
Maybe that’s confusing. I’ll give some examples.
Two o’clock in the afternoon: I’m not afraid of the dark. That’s silly! I was afraid of the dark when I was a kid, but I grew out of that.
Ten o’clock at night: I’m sweating under these covers, but I probably shouldn’t poke my foot out in case someone or something reaches from under the bed and grabs me.
Lunch time: Yes, I enjoy this salad because, as an adult, I’m conscious of the importance of taking care of my body. And just think how when I was a kid I thought I’d get to eat cake and ice cream every day once I became a grown up! Ha!
Dinner time: *shovels in cake and ice cream while watching Netflix*
Not that either of those examples is anecdotal. *cough cough*
Well, I recently had the realization that one of my childhood tendencies hasn’t died.
Confession here: I’m a bit of a control freak. As far back as I can remember,
I always wanted to be a gangster I subconsciously wanted to be perfect, and I got frustrated when things didn’t come easy to me. (Sorry, couldn’t resist the Goodfellas reference.)
In school, I had to have straight A’s. And I did, for the most part. I loved English, reading, social studies, history, art, PE, because they all came easy to me. I hated math and science because I struggled to attain an A in those classes. I had chicken pox one year and was worried I had fallen behind in my math class. My teacher assured my mom that I was “doing fine.” I got a B, my first B. I bawled.
I played soccer from the time I was 5 until I was 18, but I started hating soccer in middle school when my teammates grew and developed and became slimmer than me, taller than me, faster than me. Some of them already had college ball aspirations, so they were better than me. I spent most practices and games angry, ashamed and watching the clock because that type of athleticism didn’t come easy to me.
Other than during soccer, I seldom wore shorts in hot weather because my thighs, butt and stomach were bigger than those of most girls my age. No amount of running seemed to help, and I got winded quickly, and I couldn’t seem to turn down sweets altogether. Weight loss didn’t come easy to me, and I spent a lot of time sad.
But I knew I could do something about those things. Part of my frustration lay in the knowledge that I could control the things I considered myself to be a failure in, but I couldn’t quite get “there.” One thing that depressed me more than frustrated me was my looks. I didn’t think I was all that pretty, so I was failing in the dating department. Everyone else managed to get a significant other, even if just for a month. Finding someone to hold hands with didn’t come easy to me.
In college, I continued to get mostly A’s, I got a boyfriend and I discovered ways to exercise that I enjoyed and that helped me keep my weight down. From freshman year to Dec. 4, 2016, I believed that my silly childhood insecurities and drive to be perfect had faded.
In the past week, I have been down on myself for not controlling the clutter in my apartment, not figuring out how to get my faulty Fitbit to hold a charge, and the size of my forehead. I didn’t realize I had expressed numerous concerns plaguing my mind until Cory texted me Sunday morning and said, “You don’t need to worry about clutter or Fitbits or foreheads. Life is too short to complain all the time.”
It took me a second to grasp that he wasn’t complaining about me complaining, but rather assuring me that those things aren’t a big deal. Thanks to his perspective, I saw what the problem was: I still wanted to be perfect and for everything to come easy to me.
For at least the past three and a half years, I’ve lived with the assumption that because I no longer had tests to take or projects to turn in or sports to compete in, I didn’t worry about perfection anymore. But this whole time, that worry has been lurking and raring its head on occasion.
When I burn a pan of cookies, I’m on the verge of tears.
When I can’t answer the question of someone in my office and have to ask for help, I feel embarrassed and stupid.
When I straighten my hair and can’t get the right side to look like the left side, I get flustered.
Why did I not see all this before?
I needed to be reminded that just because I may not be getting straight A’s in life doesn’t mean I’m failing.
I then remembered that I’m in good company. I remembered Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, warning them not to put all their confidence in their abilities as humans. If anyone had a reason to be over-confident, Paul told them, it was him. He had been born with all the “right stuff” in the Jewish community. The man seemed to have it all together, like he had everything he needed to be perfect.
But he said that wasn’t the case. Essentially being a high-born Jew in a time and place when that was exactly what anybody wanted to be was not what made him perfect.
Paul said he considered all those accolades and privileges and opportunities “garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:8b-9).
As I’ve acknowledge before when I start to discuss religious matters on this blog, I know not everyone agrees with my Christian faith. But in my life, this passage brings me comfort, knowing that being a straight-A student, valedictorian, name on the Dean’s List and President’s List, or being thin or toned will not bring me to perfection. And let me tell ya, I am so glad they won’t. Because if achieving perfection was up to me alone, I would fail every. single. time.
So I’m glad – nay, ecstatic – that any righteousness that is in me is because of Jesus and what He did for me and for the rest of the world. Not because of a clean house, technological genius or movie-star-perfect forehead.