Second Journeys & Perfectionism
One of the surprisingly beautiful things about Second Journey’s is that they remind us that we can’t make life right simply by our own efforts and achievements. The harder we try to do life on our own and be perfect, the more entangled and entrapped we become in a rat race we will never win. If we base our worthiness on performance, we will find judgment comes to us ever so easily and that we will have little capacity for grace and compassion. The perfectionist race is a set up, and one that God has lovingly rigged for failure as we find that, despite our best efforts, we cannot escape toil in our labor or desire unfulfilled (Genesis 3). These God designed burdens are purposeful. They lead us to recognize the futility of self-sufficient effort alone and they serve as invitations back to communion with God who desires to make our burden light and life abundant. If we continue push our perfectionist efforts our only certain hope that is that
we’ll eventually tire, exhausted by our own efforts to be “good enough.” It is in these exhaustive moments that words like those expressed in Galatians 2 are a restful reminder of the grace and freedom God wishes us to find in Him, ragamuffins that we are.
“We Jews know we have no advantage of birth over ‘non-Jewish’ sinners. We know very well that we are not set right with God by rule-keeping but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ. How do we know? We tried it – and we had the best system of rules the world has ever seen! Convinced that no human being can please God by self-improvement, we believed in Jesus as the Messiah so that we might be set right before God by trusting in the Messiah, not by trying to be good.
Have some of you noticed that we are not perfect yet? (No great surprise, right?) And are you ready to make the accusation that since people like me, who go through Christ in order to get things right with God, aren’t perfectly virtuous, Christ must therefore be an accessory to sin? The accusation is frivolous. If I was ‘trying to be good,” I would be rebuilding the same old barn that I tore down. I would be acting as a charlatan.
What actually took place is this: I tried keeping the rules and working my head off to please God and it didn’t work. So I quit being a ‘law man’ so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enable me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living in not ‘mine,’ but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going back on that.
Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.”
~ Galatians 2:15 – 21 (The Message)