A Ticket Out of Perfection Prison
by Erica Wiggenhorn
When we suffer from a fear of inadequacy or failure, allowing other people to see our limitations terrifies us. We want to mask every flaw and foible, pretending like we’ve got it all together. We often assume that if others knew of our limitations, they would outright reject us. We are only accepted when we’re perfect.
Perfectionism and micromanaging point to our fear of inadequacy. If we could, we’d work alone where we can control and demand the results we expect at every turn. When we’re driven by fear of failure to meet others’ expectations, we know we’ll work ourselves to death to get it right. Striving serves us well. But inviting others in? That’s risky. They may not be as emotionally invested as we are, and their standard might be below perfection.
Amanda had been the mastermind behind her church’s annual harvest festival for several years. She loved hearing, “Amanda’s done it again!” and feeling the satisfaction in knowing she once more had single-handedly pulled off a successful fundraiser, which provided funds to help children go to camp.
Then Holly’s family joined the church. Holly, who managed a popular bakery/coffee-house, proposed working with other volunteers to supply fancy dessert baskets as an extra special offering to bolster sales. Despite being urged to accept Holly’s idea, Amanda kept putting her off, insisting she had preparations for the entire event well in hand. Plans for the festival went on as usual and, as usual, Amanda worked herself to a frazzle, but this year, she actually became ill with bronchitis and was unable to continue. Several days before the event, there was still much to be done, and Amanda had no choice but to ask for help. She contacted Holly, who agreed to take on the desserts and oversee volunteers for the other details of the festival.
The problem with taking everything on ourselves becomes our inability to pull it off. But God often backs us into a corner with our limited possibilities so He can provide His limitless provision. God brought Moses face to face with his physical limitations. Not long after their departure, an enemy tribe, Amalek, came and attacked the people of Israel, as we read in Exodus 17. Moses summoned Joshua, his second in command, and instructed him to “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand” (v. 9).
So that’s what Joshua did, and it’s quite the interesting story, complete with exciting cinematography. We can picture it: when Moses would hold up his arms, Israel would be winning the battle. But if he grew weary and his arms drooped, then it was Amalek that gained the edge.
Finally, Moses’ arms became so weary that he could no longer hold them up by himself. His comrades found a large stone for him to sit on, and Aaron held up one of his arms and Hur the other. How did this work out? His hands remained “steady until the going down of the sun” (v. 12). And, led by Joshua, Israel won the battle.
Some scholars suggest that Moses did more than just stand there with his hands in the air. Perhaps God spoke battle strategies to him, and Moses communicated to Joshua that to do through giving signals with the staff. This suggests God took a much more active role in the battle and has Moses acting as more of a general, taking orders from his Commander in Chief. But imagine if Moses had refused the help of Aaron and Hur. Amalek most likely would have prevailed and plundered Israel. The defeat may also have incited other nomadic tribes to come and attack Israel later. Israel needed to win that battle, and Moses could not secure their victory alone. He was not physically strong enough. He needed help.
In this battle scene, God’s honor was also at stake. God’s desire was to make Himself known as the One True God, high above all the false gods of the surrounding nations. If Amalek had won, it would mean that God was not powerful enough to defeat Amalek’s gods. Look what God instructed Moses to call the altar he built at the conclusion of this battle: “The LORD Is My Banner” (v. 15). That word banner means “rallying-point” or “miracle.” When we rally together as brothers and sisters in Christ, our God works miracles on our behalf. How’s that for motivation to hand over our fear of inadequacy and invite others in?
If Moses was anything like me, I’d need more than one admonition from God regarding the importance of asking for help. Part of releasing our fear of inadequacy is learning to be okay with our limitations. Nobody can be everything to everyone at all times. We have to learn to accept this and set realistic expectations of ourselves. Perfection becomes a prison if we don’t relinquish unhealthy ideas about performance.
When we make peace with our limitations, we find peace in our relationships. We stop believing the lie that everything must be perfect or life will fall apart. We alone cannot be enough to sustain all people at all times in all things. We weren’t meant to be. God becomes our rallying point. We gather around Him, inviting Him to be our miracle. Our more than enough.
That year, the harvest festival went off without a hitch. Even though Amanda got the flu. And with the addition of Holly’s baked goods, they raised an additional several hundred dollars. Amanda, the one-time harvest queen, agreed to expand her royal court for good, adding Holly and others to co-rule her kingdom. And the camp program lived happily ever after.
If God used Amanda’s illness, along with teaching Moses about his limitations, not allowing either of them to go it alone, what do you think He’s asking you to place in the hands of someone else for help? I don’t have your entrance to the harvest festival covered, but I’ll gladly give you a ticket out of Perfection Prison!
Dear friend, you have permission to stop performing.
Adapted from Letting God Be Enough: Why Striving Keeps You Stuck & How Surrender Sets You Free by Erica Wiggenhorn (© 2021). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.
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