Try as I may, I’ll never forget my last week as a college sophomore (and as I guy, it’s my genetic right to be forgetful). I was a music major at the time, and second year piano finals always culminated with a 30 minute solo showcase in front of the entire music faculty and any students who had nothing better to do with their Thursday afternoon.
I’d rehearsed meticulously for three months in tiny basement practice rooms barely big enough for my six foot frame and an old upright.
I was ready for perfection.
And it was that very obsession with perfection that I firmly believe did me in.
About 20 minutes into a half-hour performance, my brain shut down. The connection between my head and my hands was severed, and my fingers quit playing. It was a tragedy of epic proportions. Call it! Shows over! That’s a wrap!
I wish I was kidding.
The concert hall fell silent, my peers held their breath, and my professors sharpened their grading pencils. To this day, I’m 100% convinced my meltdown was directly related to one thing:
I was focused on being perfect instead of on making music.
I believe that exact same kind of misdirection also creates failure in our spiritual lives.
When I obsess over being perfect, I never become more righteous. I might become more self-righteous, but oddly enough, that’s the exact opposite of what I was after in the first place. More than likely, I’ll just become overwhelmed and ashamed by my complete inability to get it right — my “panicked pause” in the middle of a pressure-packed auditorium.
Contrary to logic, I don’t get better by focusing on getting better. I get better by focusing on the Source of my improvement (which, for the record, isn’t me).
One of the most liberating passages of Scripture comes from Galatians chapter 2:
“Have some of you noticed that we are not yet perfect? (No great surprise, right?).
I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
-Galatians 2:17,19-21 MSG (emphasis mine, perfection His)
So you want to get better? You want to improve? You want more righteousness? More virtue? More godliness?
Stop trying to be perfect. Start looking to the Perfect One.
The more you obsess over what Christ has done for you, the less infatuated you’ll become with your own lame counterfeit. It’s His perfection you want anyway. And He promised to give it to you – no grade, no performance, no final – just life.
His life. Perfect.