Yes, I can be a bit of a perfectionist! My husband says that it is one of my coping mechanisms to try and control the world around me, to avoid pain and rejection by others. And, as much as I have argued that it is not so, I now realize that my constant tiredness during the semester is because I am trying to give my students the best class possible, even if it kills me. Being perfect and earning As seemed to be how I received love as a child; so, I strive to always give 125%, which is impossible, I know. So, I am so thankful that in God’s work, He does not seek or expect perfect people, which makes me eligible to do His will.
When I felt the call to ministry, I thought maybe I was wrong. In a vision or dream, I am not sure whether I was asleep or not, I saw myself in the pulpit preaching, and I thought, “No way!” I had done so much that God would disapprove of that I could not believe that He even knew me! A little time after, as I read Isaiah 61:1 one evening, I felt in my spirit a small voice say, “That’s you!” What?!! How can that be? Then, I found myself one Sunday preaching at my church, and my pastor told me that I had a calling on my life, and still it took me 20 years to accept it, mainly because I could not believe that God could use me with all my sins and flaws, one being shyness and fear of rejection.
Yet, as I read of the men and women that God chose to do His will in the Old and New testament, what struck me most was that they were people who might not be chosen first for people’s teams today. There was Moses with his stuttering, who tried unsuccessfully to convince God that he was not eloquent enough to be a deliverer of the people of Israel from Egyptian slavery.
He states in Exodus 4:10, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I have never been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.”In verses 11-12 God responded to Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decided whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, The Lord? Now, go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say. ” Ultimately, God sent Moses’s brother, Aaron, with him to be his mouthpiece. Moses became a much beloved mentor and leader of his people. God was not looking for a perfect speaker, just an obedient one.
Then there was Rahab, a prostitute, no less, in Jericho, who would have been the last person one would think God would use. But, in Joshua 2, indeed He did use her to save the two men sent by Joshua to spy out the land. Through her courage and belief that the God of Israel would triumph over her people, Joshua received the information needed to begin the campaign to give the land of Canaan to the children of Israel, as God had promised to their ancestors.
In the process, Rahab saved herself and her family when Jericho fell to the people of Israel. Interestingly, if you read the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1, you will find Rahab listed as one of only four women acknowledged. She is listed as King David’s great, great grandmother. She had not lived a perfectly moral life, but she was found useful to God, because of her faith in the God of Israel and a changed heart.
These are only two of the many imperfect people God used, including Gideon, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Deborah, Ruth, Esther, Paul, Peter, John, and James, Judas Iscariot, and, yes, King David, whom God called “a man after my own heart.” In 1 Samuel 16, when Samuel went to Jesse’s house to appoint one of Jesse’s sons as the new king to replace King Saul, he assumed God would choose Eliab, because he was tall and handsome, to be king. But God said to Samuel in verse 7, “Don’t look at how handsome Eliab is or how tall he is, because I have not chosen him, God does not see the same way people see. People look at the outside of a person, but the Lord looks at the heart.” God had chosen David, the youngest one, a sheep herder.
Yes, I still have to work on not trying to be perfect or attempting to win the approval of people in what I do, even when teaching or preaching for the Lord. I have to constantly remind myself to remember what Jesus told the Pharisees and religious leaders who were complaining of Jesus’s tendency to eat with what they called “scum” (Luke 5: 30, New Living Translation) or sinners and tax collectors (New Century Version). Jesus said in verse 32, “I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” Certainly, I am in that number!
Today, if you think that you are not good enough for God to use because of present or past sins, then, I would say that you are exactly the kind of person that God wants to use. Through our testimonies of how He changed us and made us whole, we can touch the lives of others. When they hear of our pasts and that we recognize that we are still sinners in need of a Savior just like them, I believe it makes a difference in how they see God. When they know that Jesus is looking for obedience more than perfect people, then they may just choose to invite Jesus into their hearts and let God do His perfect will in their lives.
When I wear my robes or my collar, sometimes people change the way they interact with me, offering me the best seat in the house and changing their speech, so as not to offend me. As a child, I was annoyed that the visiting preacher got to eat first, and, so, received the best of the chicken and other meats and food! People tend to treat preachers/teachers as though they are greater than other people, but we are human beings just like everyone else, with many of the same faults and flaws of the people we teach.
I tell people that I will stand in line like everyone else and wait my turn, but they act like I just committed a crime! All this attention can lead some people to think they are above others, just as it did the Pharisees and religious leaders of Jesus’s day, but there are no perfect people in this world. There has been only one perfect person to walk the earth, and that was Jesus as God, reconciling the world back to God. I have to tell myself that all the time!
Dear Heavenly Father, Abba,
Thank goodness we do not need to be perfect to serve you! I am thankful that unlike humans, you look at the heart and not the outer garment. We just have to be obedient to Your words and will and ever mindful not to expect perfection from others and not from ourselves, too. To You be glory, honor, dominion, and gratitude. Your unfailing love and desire to save us from our sins gave us the ultimate gift, Jesus Christ, our Savior and King. Thank you, Father. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.