Thursday, July 23, 2009

Perfect People Need Not Comment!

One of my all-time favorite movies is Mary Poppins. In the scene following her arrival at the Banks home, she is unpacking her bottomless (and seemingly empty) carpetbag while Jane & Michael watch. She rummages around and pulls out a measuring tape to see how they measure up. Michael is "Extremely Stubborn and Suspicious." Jane is "Rather Inclined to Giggle. Doesn't Put Things Away." They demand that she take a turn, but her result is "Mary Poppins. Practically Perfect in Every Way." (You can watch this darling clip here if you aren't familiar with it.)

How often we as women think we need to be like Mary Poppins. (Although I'd settle for being able to snap my fingers to clean the house!) We try so hard to be perfect (or at least supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!) so that we can convince everyone, including God, that we measure up. Only the result is that, like Michael, reaching for something beyond our abilities only results in our being frustrated, out of control, and in a never-ending cycle trying to escape.

This is something I have particularly struggled with for years. Growing up in a home where the expectations were high and deficiencies were always pointed out, I have wrestled with this for much of my life. (Lest you think my folks were abusive, let me clarify that this was not the case and the motivation was to help us improve and be our best. Unfortunately, the result was the sense of never doing/being enough.)

So I was particularly interested in Lisa Harper's new book, A Perfect Mess: Why You Don't Have to Worry About Being Good Enough for God. As she walks the reader through some of the Psalms, which contain "God's interactions with real people with real problems in need of His gloriously real grace," Lisa reminds us that "God's incomparable love transforms the messiness and loneliness of life into a gorgeous tapestry of grace." (Quotes from the Introduction, pages 2-3)

Chapters such as "Leaping over Legalism," "Tumbling Toward Approval," and "Frantic Isn't a Spiritual Fruit" are sprinkled with verses, truths, and examples. Each chapter concludes with questions for personal insight or discussion, making this an ideal book for a Bible Study, book club, or small group.

I especially loved the chapter "Tumbling Toward Approval" and could relate to much of what it said:

Maybe you too have exhauted yourself striving to be sweeter or thinner or a better scrapbooker. Perhaps you've crafted Bible study answers with the goal of impressing the girls in your small group. It's easy to fall prey to the feel-good addiction of other people's approval. . .I've realized tha many of us are just as prone to perform for God as for anyone else.

I used to think that, along with trying to impress others, I had to try to win God over with a "good girl" routine. . . I felt sure that the only reason I'd get to squeak into heaven's door was because Jesus felt sorry for me and talked His Father into it. Although I walked down an aisle to confess my sins and my need for Christ's love and forgiveness when I was seven, it took decades longer to believe that Jesus actually likes me, that He doesn't merely deliver me but wholeheartedly delights in me. (excerpted from pp. 43-45)

Anyone else ready to quit trying to be perfect and accept that you're A Perfect Mess? (Giveaway below!)

Caught up in the self-imposed pressure to do and be all the things they think a Christian woman ought to do and be, countless women are working desperately to convince everyone, including God, that they have it all together. Few have any idea that the Creator of the universe looks at them with delight even when they yell at the dog, drive a minivan littered with French fries, or think bad words about that rude clerk at the store.

A Perfect Mess offers hope to every woman who yearns for a vibrant relationship with God but worries she isn’t good enough or doesn’t do enough to merit His affection. With characteristic authenticity, speaker and author Lisa Harper shares poignant stories from her own imperfect life to showcase the real-life relevancy of the Bible in the lives of modern women.

As she guides readers on a story-driven journey through selected Psalms, they will be inspired to experience for themselves how God’s incomparable love transforms the messiness of life into a gorgeous work of grace.

Lisa Harper is a master storyteller whose lively approach connects the dots between the Bible era and modern life. She is a sought-after Bible teacher and speaker whose upcoming appearances include the national Women of Faith Conferences. A veteran of numerous radio and television programs and the author of several books, she also is a regular columnist for Today’s Christian Woman magazine. Lisa recently completed a master’s of theological studies from Covenant Theological Seminary. She makes her home outside Nashville. You can learn more at her website.

She talks about the fear of not being perfect here:

The publisher has provided an additional copy for me to give to one of you! Just leave a comment on this post by 6:00 p.m. CDT Saturday and I will draw a winner. (Continental US residents only, please.)

A Perfect Mess can be purchased directly from the publisher or from Amazon or other bookstores.


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A Stone Gatherer said...

Oh Linda that so sounds like me! I grew up in a home similar to yours! You didn't grow up Dutch did you?!!! My parents did what they thought best and my Dad was a perfectist too! I see know that he just did what he was taught to do, and I now (try to) react differently with my kids and praise them more! Oh and say Thank you and I'm sorry more! I love that this is a give away too! Hopeful!

Sarah@Life in the Parsonage said...

Sounds like a book I could use...hypothetically, of course ;)

I love it just by judging it by its cover! Cute :)

sara said...

I think many of our generation grew up in homes like this...loving, but high standards.

This sounds like a great book!

Kim said...

A-men and A-men! Great review Linda! Mine will go up tomorrow...this is a book packed with promise but one that does not overlook our sins and the need for repentance. GREAT BOOK!! Great review too!

bluecottonmemory said...

I like that MP was humble enough to admit being only "practically" perfect. I always thought Jane and Michael needed someone with their act together for them because nobody ever did--for them. No, MP wasn't perfect, but she was good at what she was called to do, which is what God calls us to do. It sounds like such a great book. If I had to be great at everything, which I thought I had to be for quite awhile, I was really stressed out and felt like a failure. When I got hold of Don and Katie Fortune's Discover Your Spiritual Gifts, I realized I only had to be truly accountable to what God called me to be. That really took off a lot of pressure.

Thanks for sharing such a great book!

skoots1mom said...

my house was that way too...
would love to read this one ... putting it on the list for our small group

Hippolyta said...

I really struggle with perfectionism. Please enter me.

pragmaticcompendium said...

Sounds like a real good book! (and how funny that we both posted on Mary Poppins within hours of each other!)

In my efforts to instill in them a work ethic, I have to be careful with my kids. I've operated on two thoughts for, like, EVER:


"Sometimes it is not enough to do your best, sometimes you have to do what's required."


"Good enough" isn't good enough.

I hope I try to always focus on effort and motivation, not results. For example, with PinkGirl, we are setting up math incentives based on the time spent practicing math, not on grades. That said, they both get dinner at a restaurant of their choice for a straight "A" report card.

hmmm. You've got me rethinking that one - and what else I do that might set them up to feel like a failure. hmmm.

Katherine said...

This book looks really good.
Please enter me.


Beverlydru said...

Hi Linda! You had my full attention with the Mary Poppins analogy. Cupcake gave me the DVD for mother's day as I had worn out the video. LOVE that movie. The book sounds great. Please enter me.
(I read Stealing Home and loved it)

mez said...

A Perfect Mess sounds very encouraging. Please include me in the drawing. Thanks!


Jill said...

Sounds like a great book. Enter me in the drawing. I'm a pastor's wife and a complete failure at being perfect.

My ADHD Me said...

Now I bet you KNOW that this is THE book for me!

Not only that, but Mary Poppins is one of my favorite movies too. Then again, anything with Dick Van Dyke AND Julie Andrews has to be "Practically Perfect in Every Way!"!

Lelia Chealey said...

My friend & I were just talking about this "disease" not so long ago. It is so hard. When I think I have one area down, something else comes up that I'm not strong in and then I feel like a failure. It's such a vicious cycle. Your post title really caught my :)
I hate when I haven't been by a blog in some time and there's a giveaway cuz I don't want the blog author to think I came by for that. :) Oh boy...I think I need this book!

Rebecca. Harlan, IN said...

I'm 60 years old and frequently STILL find myself slipping into the impossible dream of living up to my parents' standards. (I'm getting better, but wonder if this is MORE than just the homes we grew up in....) For all this, there is God's grace.

2nd Cup of Coffee said...

I'm in the club of perfection pressure, too. Lisa told an amazing story in this video, touched this tough ol' broad's heart.

George quotes the practically perfect Mary Poppins line all the time, in different situations.

Please add me into the giveaway!

Cindy-Still His Girl said...

Oh boy. Sounds like a book I need! (Bummed I missed the giveaway deadline!)

I have made huge progress in this area, and I am so thankful! Sometimes I look back and can't believe I was SO trapped by the desire to be perfect. Still have a ways to go, though! :)

Xandra@Heart-of-Service said...

I just bought this on my sounds like a book that I need to read!