There is something I have noticed about myself for many years, but only in a vague sort of way. I have two contradictory perspectives on the world, two very different ways of viewing myself, other people, and God. It is only in recent years that I have more clearly understood these perspectives.
One of my perspectives on the world came from me, created within myself in response to how I saw the world and how I thought I could best deal with the world. In this view, I am the center of the universe and everything depends on me. It is my job to keep others happy and proactively prevent conflict and discomfort that could potentially make my job of keeping others happy more difficult. In this perspective,
God is a tool to be used to help me with my work to the extent that He is willing, and when He doesn't come through at any given time I can just expend more emotional effort trying to control things myself. From this perspective, there is very little room for error. I have to be a perfectionist to live under this system because my value depends on how successful I am at what I am trying to do. Every detail matters and every misstep counts.
By God's grace I also have another perspective on the world, His truth and the reality of how things actually are. Because I know the Lord and have His word to guide me, I can shift away from my own personal world view and look at things more accurately. From this view, God is in control of the universe instead of me and I can trust that His way is best. People are His responsibility, not mine, and I am only asked to love them, not keep them happy. From this perspective, not only do I not have to be perfect, it is a given that I never will be, and so God has already made me perfect solely through His own love and grace. Instead having to depend on my own efforts, I can wholly rely on Jesus, and in Him I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing and have everything I need.
For years, without really understanding it, I have been divided between these perspectives. My own perspective would cause me stress and frustration even as the Holy Spirit would draw me back to the truth. In the past couple of years, I have learned much more about my own view of the world and how it contrasts with God's view. Things that were once nebulous and confusing have become better defined and understandable. An important part of this process was reading the book Love Focused by Bob and Judy Hughes. It showed me my self-centered perspective for what it was and I was finally able to accept the life-changing truth that God is sufficient for me. I put that book down ready to live a life focused on loving and trusting God rather than one of pleasing others and trying to control things.
Since then, I have seen some of the challenges that arise when a trained people-pleaser and perfectionist tries to shift her focus to loving God and others. Since loving is something the Bible says we are to do, the people-pleaser in me says I must do it, and if I don't love then what good am I? And the perfectionist in me wants to know the best way to love and what the rules are for loving so I know how to do it right. Then, when I catch myself thinking this way, I find it unacceptable that I haven't perfectly changed my perspective yet.
I am learning that I cannot make the personal world view I have created just go away. A lifetime of practice has ingrained it in me and it is a part of me that cannot simply be cut off. I have been a Christian most of my life, but I have invested more in my own system than in understanding God's perspective. I can't will myself into being farther along than I am. What I can do is continue to let the Holy Spirit draw me back to the truth, continue to believe that God's love and grace are enough, and trust Him with the result.
Randy said something beautiful and profound to me the other day as we talked about God's perspective, words I didn't know I needed to hear until he spoke them. He said to me, "You are a child and not a servant." I have thought about that a lot since. It is something you might think a lifelong Christian would already grasp, but it lies at the heart of the conflict between my point of view and the Lord's. Part of me wanted to argue and say, "But I am a servant. It is my job to do everything God has told me to do and carry out His purposes for me." It is an understandable reaction based on my perfectionist background, but it just isn't true. The real question is, what do I honestly think happens if I don't perfectly do everything God says? Does my salvation depend on it? No. Does my worth end on it? No. God has already freely sacrificed His only Son for me and freely given me everything I need. He loves me because He loves me, not because of what I do. My system is the one based on performance, not God's, and it doesn't need to be. I am a child and not a servant.
I thank God with all my heart that I do not have to live my life with only my own self-created view of the world. I thank God that He is always bringing me back to the truth in so many different ways, and that He is teaching me to distinguish between my perspective and His. Day by day I believe Him more and my own obsolete system less. Even though I wish I could perfectly let go of my perfectionism, I thank God that right now, just as I am, His love and grace are sufficient for me. I thank Him for the outcome of the work He has begun in me. And I thank God that I am His child and not a servant, free to love just as my Father freely loves.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13 NASB)