by Heather Bock
Today was the first day of my homeschool community, Classical Conversations. I posted the obligatory “First Day of School” pictures on Facebook, and my kids looked cute and sweet. That didn’t last long for my youngest. I remember thinking Little E was bad when she was in my class that first year (she was younger than JP is now). I had no idea. I tutor JP now in my little class of eight 3-5 year olds, and that kid wiggled, whined, complained, screamed, and kicked through much of the three hours we were there. He was supposed to sit or stand or jump or do hand motions (like the rest of the children) on his specially made felt rectangle with his name painted on it for the twenty or thirty minutes we were learning there. He did anything but that–ignored it, threw it, wadded it up. He refused to participate in anything but presentations. No, I take that back. He did want to participate in the review game, but once he knocked over all the other children’s game pieces and made them scream, I had to make him sit out of that, which, of course, made him scream.
It’s easier to see now that I’m calm that although he did behave abominably, he truly was hungry (apparently, he didn’t eat enough breakfast and snacktime was late), he was definitely not used to that much sitting or standing in a directed place (he does a lot of free play in our house), and he was truly tired by the end (he fell asleep soon after he arrived home). I also discovered today that my son is a bit of a perfectionist–getting frustrated when pushed a little beyond comfort zone.
The other mothers were kind to me; they gave me grace and sympathetic words, and I am very thankful for that. All I could see at the time, though, was that I had failed as a mom (and tutor) in front of six watching mothers. Now that I think about it, I felt a lot like JP did–a perfectionist not wanting to fail.
Wait a second; wasn’t it just this Sunday when God taught me about this? Hasn’t He taught me many times before? Recently, I started rereading Teaching from Rest, a book I just reviewed here. Some of it indirectly deals with the struggle for perfection some homeschooling mothers like me desire in the education of our children. God brought the message of the book to my mind in church on Sunday, and I surrendered that desire for perfection in my schooling as I sang a song I love, “Good Good Father” by Chris Tomlin. I was struck by the fact that He is perfect in all His ways, so I don’t have to be. I just have to be faithful, as Teaching from Rest explains. I can rest in the fact that He’s my good Father, and my identity is that I’m loved by Him no matter how imperfect I am.
However, I’m a slow learner (which is why He’s been working on this perfection issue with me for a long time). It’s one thing to surrender perfection in my home where nobody but my own family and God sees. It’s even easy for me to surrender an appearance of perfection in this blog. Talking about it is one thing; showing my imperfections to new acquaintances is quite another. I want my kids to show up for community time cute, hair groomed beautifully, faces wreathed with smiles, and attitudes filled with joy. So God gave me that object lesson today. It hit me hard. And the fact that it hit me hard hit me hard because I know I shouldn’t be upset by it.
But it drives me back to Sunday’s lesson. He is perfect. I am not, and neither are my kids. A few sweet friends gave me some verses, too, that I needed today. Maybe they will encourage you, too:
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (I Pet. 5:6-7).
“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (II Cor. 12:9).
and finally, just a few minutes ago:
“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12-14).
I am not perfect, but I will be faithful to press on toward what God has for me.
How about you?
Do you struggle with this perfectionism issue? What has God taught you about this?