Dear God, please let me fail (how perfectionism effects your prayer life)
Well that's a scary prayer. But I wonder how much I desperately need courage to pray it.
Did you know perfectionism affects your prayer life?
Me neither! At least not til last night, when I read from The Birth Order Book by Kevin Leman. Specifically the chapter on Perfectionists. He calls perfectionism “slow suicide.” Many are fooled into thinking they're not perfectionists, but many firstborns are “incapacitated by the fear of messing things up.” It's debilitating.
All perfect or nothing at all. Perfecto or no-go.
You've heard this before... how perfectionism has heavy consequence to our health, relationships, work, etc., etc. I know. I learned all that the hard way in my life. But before reading last night, I never thought about how that affected my prayer life. (Well, now that he mentions it... duh.)
He says that firstborns and only children pray to God in their “ideal self” (the way they want to act or want to be seen.) Perfectionists feel like God isn't really big enough to forgive them. Their prayers sound like this...
“Lord, please help me be more tolerant of little Buford” or husband or whoever.
They don't really tell it like it is:
“Lord, I have a lousy temper. Forgive me for the way I chewed out my kids today" (The Birth Order, 127).
Have you noticed I haven't written in... oh, six months? Part of it is due to pure survival... an episode of postpartum depression, extreme change of diet due to allergies, a cross-country move coming up compounded with saying goodbye to beloved friends, oh, and we've been sick. All of us. Sick kids for three months straight.
I've actually realized I was trying so hard to fit all my writing in perfectly categorized parables that I felt I couldn't write anything. All or nothing, see.
A desperate response to an altar call for healing of chronic illnesses sent me forward. I finally told the woman on the prayer team all about it. And how I haven't slept in years and years. She began to pray. She said, “I don't know why I'm praying this but I rebuke depression and anxiety in Jesus Name.”
And you know what. I was set free and I slept well that night! And my mind began to finally just ponder lovely things. You know, like on its own! Just lovely things. I have been meditating on Philippians 4 for over a year now because God told me to paint it. I painted, “Think on what is lovely.” And the irony... sometimes it bothers me. The painting is not quite right. The yellow part, the lettering. It's just not quite the lovely I was going for.
I used to stare at the words. I systematically went through the list and tried to conjure up examples of whatever was true, lovely, noble, pure, etc. It was always work though and never natural. I was trying and praying for help but ended up grinding away at it in my own strength. Maybe it was developing a discipline in me. I'd like to hope so, maybe, at least? But man!
After that woman prayed for me, the power of the Holy Spirit set me free. Naturally, (or supernaturally), lovely thoughts came to me. I wanted to share them with you. I wanted to write.
But I haven't yet. Why? Partly because I've been surviving a bit of stress, yes. Partly because I hear the voice that says, “It's too intense. People don't care what I have to say. They have too much stimulation already. Why add more? It's not important. I don't want to bother anyone. Is it really making a difference?” Yada yada.
I've had some lovely thoughts, and I like to share lovely things with people.
And now I hear the voice... “Keep it concise. Nobody wants to read anything this long anymore.”
That is the real issue. I wasn't going to be able to write it perfectly, succinctly, beautifully.
It's an excellent example.
Striving for perfection murders what is beautiful.
This has been my most repeated prayer since January, “God, please heal me. Heal my girls. Keep my husband from getting this.”
For three months straight. Started with a full month long bout of diarrhea. Then for one day, I felt better. Then we had two months straight of sore throats. One day better. Then coughing, sneezing, stuffy head, fever and no rest medicine. Then ear infections all around. Crying babies. 104* fevers, and on our anniversary. In sickness and in health? Yes. Let's top it off with a tooth in so much pain that just to breathe over it sends me throbbing. It's been horrible. All along urgently getting our house ready to show to put on the market.
Today it occurs to me that maybe health has become an idol for me again.
Idol: The thing you fix your mind, desires, wants on. The thing you strive for. Even the thing you fear most. Fear and worry reveal to us what our hearts are fixed upon. It is what we worship.
And yes. Health. Failing. That's been it for me.
God is good to let me fail.
He loves me enough to let me fail. He let me and my family be sick for months to save me from an unhealthy fixation I had. I was in bondage and fear to the “pursuit of health.” Sobering thought.
Then the song comes sweetly to mind:
“Give us clean hands. Gives us pure hearts.
Let us not lift our souls to another...
Lord we cast down our idols.
God Let us be a generation that seeks,
seeks your face oh God of Jacob.”
Father, forgive me. I cast down my idol of health. Even if I don't get better ever, I choose today to praise you, sing to you, bless you. Even though the breath over that tooth and the pain in my throat is worse, I will still sing and praise you.
You let me fail in order to save me. This time, it is my health that's failing. You are my One True God. I want no others before me. Even though my eyes throb and shoulders are in pain as I write this.
You are good. You are holy.
You are faithful. You are for me.
Beautiful. Powerful. Able.
My constant source, keeping me stable.
Did you know that failing is beautiful?
Though my body is weary, I will still praise you. One of the most beautiful pictures I have in my mind is Miss Mays laying for days on the floor, unable to move due to failing health. All she could do was worship and sing your Name.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.
That is beauty.
Father, as a mom, I can't imagine how difficult it would be to let my children keep failing. Truthfully, I just want to protect them from failure. But you saw that letting me fail was the only way to let me truly get free. I know as my Father, that was probably so difficult for you. I am sorry.
I want you more than anything else. I've only been praying to you for healing. I do want healing, but I want restored relationship with you more. I think of the guy we met in Genesis who kept some of the looted gold he wasn't supposed to and he and his entire family were stoned because of it. Idol worship is serious. I'm sorry that me worshipping health has also cost so much pain to my children.
Thank you for your grace. For not giving up on me. For not protecting me from myself or I'd have never realized I put this before You. Thank you for letting me fail. I praise you God. Even in my pain, I praise you. God, my body decays. It's not meant to last forever. But you Oh God are forever. Eternal. And beautiful. Thank you for the promise of new bodies in heaven. The promise of wiping away every tear and healing every disease. Thank you for the leaves of the trees that will heal every nation. I love you. I love you. I love you. With all my strength. All my energy. All my mind and heart and spirit.
Me? I fail.
But You, Oh God. Your love never fails.