Breaking Free: The Idolatry of Perfection

I don’t think of myself as the type person who leaves things undone. By “nature” I finish things. In fact, I usually err on the side of not starting something if I am unsure that I will finish it because I’m easily annoyed at uncompleted projects. Being this way is typically more problematic than it is convenient or helpful and so I’ve made some changes. But recently, I’ve noticed that my journey to alter my expectations to more reasonable outcomes (rather than perfection) has also brought with it some unintentional baggage: not following through to completion. It’s usually regarding a goal or commitment I’ve made only to myself (or God), but still it is a commitment that I’ve failed to keep. As I’ve become aware of this recent change, it occurred to me that it has happened gradually and subtly. I look around my home and see reminders that I’ve started something – organizing something, changing something, purging something, or writing something – and yet it’s still right where it was in the beginning of the process.
Cameron, our oldest [foster] son ask us last week about idols. Yesterday, Brent shared with me a quote by Tim Keller he had heard from the recent Desiring Conference: “Wherever your emotions are out of control, there’s your idol.” Being in the midst of a book study regarding unchecked emotions, I certainly have something on which to think for a few days.
Finishing well is a good intention. In fact, I think I would be right in saying it’s a Godly intention! But for me, this good thing has been twisted into an idol of sorts. My friend and I were recently talking about the Older Testament story of the “manna” … it required faith to believe that God was going to provide for them daily. There was no storage or stockpile. They were to just trust that God would give them what they needed … tomorrow. Just as He had that day. And the day before that. God was giving them a picture of what the writer of Hebrews would later remind us through his words: “Faith is the essence of things not yet seen.
I have realized that being task oriented can be an idol for me because of the way it affects my emotions. First of all there’s the Overwhelmed Stage of all that there is to do. It is comprised of that long list that sits on my counter everyday. Stage 2 is that point of decision to begin or not to begin the new task. Stage 3 usually reflects the aftermath … the wishful thinking … the dashed and unfulfilled expectation. Stage 4 usually takes the path of negative self talk. It’s filled with that Yoda voice: “There is no try”. I begin to take it to the extreme and I stop trying to do things well and settle for just OK. Or even less, for nothing at all.
Today I’m choosing to cast down an idol (2 Cor 10:5). The idol of “it has to be done today.” I have this moment to do something. Maybe just one thing. Maybe it will only be started. Maybe I’ll only be in the middle of it. But making a good choice changes this moment. And that’s the only moment I’m promised.

Imperfect progress.

“Manna” for today.

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