"I have loved you with an everlasting love..."--Jeremiah 31:3 Twenty years ago, I started the one-year Bible certificate program at what is now Multnomah Biblical Seminary. As always, God had more in mind for me than merely preparing me for ministry. (Doesn't He always?)
As I had shared a few days ago, I was accustomed to being a straight-A student. I am not like one of those people who don't need to study and still get an A. I needed to study and work hard. But I knew how to do it and play the game right. I did great the first semester. 4.0 in all six graduate-level courses. Not bad, right?
One of God's blessings to me, however, did not come through my coursework. It came through a gentle, wise woman named Carley Wecks, who was the Dean of Women for the seminary. Every month, I would meet with Carley and little by little, God used her to surface for me things that I never even knew existed within myself. One of those areas was my drive for perfectionism and the underlying reasons beneath it.
By the time I began to see the damaging effects this drivenness was having in my own life, it was about midway through second semester. I still was doing very well, but I could see that I was completely missing the boat when it came to God. Ironically, even though I was doing great in my schoolwork, I felt very distant from Him.
One of my courses was on systematic theology. In order to get an A in the class, you needed to complete all of the reading assignments and study questions. Check. I also needed to get at least a 90% on all exams. Check. The last major requirement was to submit 3 research papers. I had submitted one and was working on my second one when my personal crisis arose. I was burned out on studying, tired and unable to process. I needed to stop, but with the paper due in a week, I could see no reprieve.
When I went to meet with Carley, she gently suggested, "Would you be willing to not write this paper?" I was aghast. Seriously? If I did, that would guarantee a B on my report card! I mean, it's one thing to get a B after trying hard, but to aim for one? Again, she repeated her suggestion. I wrestled with it, but knew that I needed to make a decision for time to research and write the paper was running out.
I decided not to write that paper. Oh, how hard it was to keep myself from going to the library and working on it...especially when I saw my classmates doing it! (Sheesh...peer pressure to study?) To this day, it stands as the only B on my record that year. And you know what? No one really cared. No one has ever asked.
But God used that lesson in a big way that year. For a girl who put great stock in being perfect, it made me realize that God still loved me and had big plans for me. I had thought by choosing to get the B that I was failing Him, failing myself, and failing others. I was sure I would sabotage my ministry opportunities. But it was all an illusion. It wasn't real.
So what has this got to do with this week's theme on being overwhelmed? I hate to say it, but my perfectionistic tendencies haven't completely disappeared. They have just showed up in different ways in the way I parent, homeschool or minister. Even though I am not getting graded for any of these things now, I still have standards for myself to "get the A". What God is reminding me though is that it is okay for me to "choose the B" in some of these areas, especially if striving for the A makes me lose perspective of what is most important to Him.
For example, I like my house just so in some ways. However, when I am teaching my kids to do chores, it is highly unlikely they will ever do it to my standards, especially when they are little and are just starting out. Instead of hounding them for the wrinkles in the clothes or the streaks in the mirrors, I have learned to choose the "B". There are just some things that are more important than perfection. It is highly overrated.
I'm not saying to accept mediocrity. But it is one thing to be content with mediocrity and another to choose a lower standard for a greater good. As moms, we go through different seasons. Having a newborn, experiencing layoffs or caring for aging parents come to mind. I have learned that "choosing the B" in some areas, like housekeeping, service, or ministry is okay. Whatever the case, I think we are usually harder on ourselves than God is. Instead of overwhelming myself with impossible standards, I need to step back, learn from Him what His standards are, and at times, choose the B. I have learned that I can get an "A" in everything else, but get an "F" when it comes to the big lessons in life.
So where do you need to choose the B? Whatever it is, remember that you're still an A+ with our Heavenly Father.
Part 4 of Overwhelmed series.