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Grace Makes the Imperfect ... Holy.

by Hillary McFarland


a repost from the archives


Idon't sew much anymore, but when I was six years old, a thoughtful gift from my mom  ~ a cookie tin stuffed with my very own red pincushion, thread, buttons, and delightful squares of fabric ~ launched several years of  me curling up on my bed, trailing awkward stitches in whatever scraps of calico I could find. I spent hours at Wal-mart looking at rows of colorful cotton, imagining everything I could make with the materials. I loved to create things, to bring beauty and joy using ribbon and satin, rosettes and yarn, muslin and batiste.  
     As I grew older and perfectionism set in, this affected my sewing as well. Unhappy with the slightest pucker in a hem, I'd rip the whole thing out and start new, fresh. Even though no one else could see interior seams, the slightest fray that I knew was there grated on my mind like nails on chalkboard, prompting me to devour a book from the library on Sewing the Perfect Seam and then transforming simple patterns into French couture ~ on the inside, at least. Sometimes, when projects became hopelessly befuddled and beyond [perfect in my eyes] repair, I abandoned them to my little sisters who gleefully added them to their own collections. It got so bad that at one point, sentimental me-who-keeps-everything threw away the very first project I made with my birthday sewing kit: a floppy little dolly which I thought was dreadfully ugly.
     But my mom saw something in her I didn't, fished her out of the trash, and stuck her away in a special place.

 _______________________
    
     The thing about perfectionism is that it eventually leads to burnout. It's tough to gather motivation for a new project when we know how draining it is to complete it to standard. It's hard to keep "fighting the good fight" when every day we fail to measure up. Perfectionism becomes a ruthless master, killing, stealing, destroying, and ravaging our lives. Aghast at the efforts of the Galatians, Paul exclaimed, "Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" (3:3) Yet perfectionists try, and try, and try ... growing physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually fatigued.
I made her all by myself
when I was six.
My floppy dolly with crayon eyes and lips.
Thank you, mom.
    The truth is that God commands us to be holy. Holiness and perfection are not necessarily the same. The sacrificial lambs were required to be perfect, without spot or blemish. The Sacrificial Lamb was holy, set apart, sanctified. For those raised within authoritarian, high-demand, performance-based, image-conscious households, understanding grace comes at a personal cost because our very ideas of faith, goodness, and biblical living are wrapped up in how godly and righteous we can be. Yet what does God say?
     Perhaps what we run from most, in ourselves, is what God wants for His glory?
     Isn't this the personification of perfectionism: us running from our weaknesses, our failures, our unfinished seams? And in the arduous quest for perfection, are we unwittingly running from grace?
     I believe that until we can stop striving for perfection and rest, trusting in the One who justifies the ungodly, grace will remain elusive. Because grace is found through brokenness, through mistakes, through ugly things, through a little dolly swept from the trash bin by a mother who understood something I had yet to learn.

Grace makes the imperfect . . .
holy.

Here is an encouraging post from Serena Woods. Have you read anything about grace lately that you'd like to share?

5 comments:

  1. "For those raised within authoritarian, high-demand, performance-based, image-conscious households, understanding grace comes at a personal cost because our very ideas of faith, goodness, and biblical living are wrapped up in how godly and righteous we can be. Yet what does God say?" i really needed to hear this. :) God says to me that He is trustworthy, that He loves me unconditionally, that I'm totally forgiven, that He does all the work i just turn to Him, that my identity is in His son Christ, that ALL things even my mistakes He works for my good to make me more like Him, that we are no longer under the law of the OT but under a new law of L.O.V.E. I thank God for all the years of good grace teaching & a good foundation in the Lord! just so you know Steve McVay @ http://www. grace walk. org/ is a gr8 grace resource! i love your homemade doll! XO

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  2. Thank you, frogla. {{hugs}} And yes, Steve McVay is a great resource!

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  3. This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it.

    It reminded me of two songs (whether really related or not).
    1. "Orphans of God" (Avalon)
    2. "Broken Ones" (Talley Trio)

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  4. This perfectionist needed to read that! :-)

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  5. That doll is so precious. I am glad that your mother decided to save it for you.

    I used to be a perfectionist and you are so right. It is extremely draining and demotivating.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Hillary.

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