By Christine Miller
When we strive for perfection in ourselves, our husbands, our children, our homes, and our homeschooling, we are placing unreasonable demands on ourselves and our families. We are demanding more of ourselves and them than the Lord does.
I have struggled with perfectionism. My dad was a perfectionist. I am sorry that my memories of him (he has been home with the Lord for some years now) are mostly of his criticisms of me and frustrations with me. I do not remember him taking delight in being together or doing things together. He spent most of his free time in maintaining that perfect house and lawn. Perfectionism saps the joy from life that God intended, and leaves you frustrated.
We have to realize something, on our journey to rediscovering God’s ways and the biblical worldview. Perfectionism is really rooted in the fear of man, not in the fear of God. Because men look on the outside, and judge by outward appearances, then for the perfectionist the greatest fear is that “work in progress” appearance, whether it is with our home, our children’s behavior, their academic achievement, or spiritual maturity. They are children, for crying out loud.
It is really self-centeredness masked. The real crux of the perfectionism is the concern (fear) of how the imperfections in my life (my home, my husband, my children) will reflect on me. Me, me, me.
The Lord is more concerned with what is dross inside of us. He is not shocked that we are imperfect, and He gently allows real life to happen to us in order to purify us. However, purification brings the ugly dross to the surface at times, where everyone can see it (panic ensues in the hearts of all of us perfectionists out there). Dross is temporary, purity is eternal.
The Lord requires purity of us, not perfection. We are all in the furnace of life together, fellow homeschoolers; let us allow ourselves and each other some room to be “works in progress.”
The story of our family, and our trials, which the Lord graciously used to teach me these truths. ♥
Am I the only one who feels it? We are a Christian family, so we hold ourselves to a high standard of personal holiness, based on the Lord’s admonition.
But we are also a homeschooling family, and within that smaller group of Christian homeschoolers, the pressure is even greater, both from within and without the Church. The pressure to have perfect children, both academically and spiritually, is on, and I feel it every time I am around other Christian homeschoolers. It is the pink elephant in the room. Perfect children automatically implies perfect parents, perfect families, perfect homes.
News flash: my children aren’t perfect, and either am I or my husband. We have our struggles and trials too, some brought on by our ignorance or foolishness, some random suffering as a result of living in a fallen world, and even some, like Job, the result of testing. So I suffer guilt, which I suspect is common among homeschoolers, but which everyone is afraid to admit, so as not to be the only family with “imperfections” or failings. News flash: every family has imperfections and failings.
I think homeschooling parents are more susceptible to guilt than most. We care so deeply about our children and the outcome of their lives that we have undertaken enormous sacrifices, which most families are unwilling to undertake, in order to give them the best possible advantage in life. But also the buck stops here. If they mess up, there is no one else to blame.
But the Lord does not require perfection of us …
I searched the Scriptures for “perfect,” and found the word used over and over again to describe God’s greatness and character, His law, His word, His justice, and other attributes which can only be applied to Him. I did not find it applied to us as His servants or children, except in this verse:
“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” — Mat 5:48
Strong’s says of the word “perfect” in this sentence, that it means “brought to its end, finished, wanting nothing necessary to completeness.” Vine’s says that it means “having reached its end, finished, complete, perfect,” and that it is an adjective used “of persons, primarily of physical development, then, with ethical import, fully grown and mature;” and particularly in Mat 5:48, that it is used of persons “complete … [in] goodness …”.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown say of this admonition, that “our Lord here speaks, not of degrees of excellence, but of the kind of excellence which was to distinguish His disciples and characterize His kingdom.”
John Gill says of this admonition, that “this perfection is to be restrained to the subject Christ is upon, love to men, and not to be referred to any, or every other thing; wherefore, in Luk 6:36 it is, “be ye merciful, as your Father also is merciful”; and regards not a perfection of degree in that, but objects and quality: that is to say, not that men may, or can, or ought to be as perfect in love, as to the degree of it, as God is; that is impossible: the ‘as’ here, is not a note of equality, but of likeness: such, who profess God to be their Father, ought to imitate Him, particularly in their love to men …”
The Lord is admonishing us in this verse to imitate our heavenly Father so as to be perfect — complete and mature — in mercy toward our fellow man. Not perfection of self-righteousness, parenting, homeschooling, homemaking, or other endeavors. For He knows our frame, that we are but dust. Were we without weaknesses, then how could His power be made perfect in us, in our families and in our children? We have nothing to boast of before the Lord, and what good God works in our children’s lives credits to His grace, not to our good works.
Christine Miller writes on her website, www.ALittlePerspective.com. She is an author and you can find her publictions at Classical Christian Homeschooling and Nothing New Press. She started blogging about homeschooling issues in 2005 (her first post, and her first “about” post for A Little Perspective).