By Adri Flores
What do you do when there are about one thousand miles between what you know in your head and what you actually feel in your heart? You may be sure that what you are reading in Scripture is the true Word of God and that it speaks about what is and what should be true in your life, but when it comes to taking things to heart it all becomes more elusive and more difficult when you’re trying to apply it to your life.
Paul once wrote, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Whenever I hear this verse I always get a wash of relief, a feeling of overwhelming gratitude and peace; then I suddenly worry about whether this is actually true in my life! What may have been tears of joy become tears of guilt and self-criticism just thinking about all the ways in which I have failed so many people, especially God.
There are so many truths about the life we can live in Christ; we hear about it every time we are at church or read our Bibles, yet for some reason even those periodic reminders about God’s faithfulness are sometimes not enough for me and I can't help having my mind wander in a million directions about all the ways I fall short and could never measure up to the high standard others and mostly I myself set for the way I live.
For a really long time, I believed that the truth of the gospel, salvation in Christ, was simply the beginning or the starting point of the Christian life. However, it has become increasingly obvious to me that the gospel is everything: the beginning and end and everything else in between. It is through the gospel that we can find freedom from our perfectionism and the disappointment that comes when we realize we can never achieve the kind of expectations and goals we and society set for our lives.
If you ask any of my friends who know me well, they can tell you all about my issues with control and planning and thinking about what's next; yet when it comes to my personal life, even the most perfect of plans pales in comparison to where God ends up leading me.
A few months after I graduated from college, I decided I would intern with Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ). Before I decided to intern, I had planned to go to graduate school, so I knew that my seemingly sudden change of plans might not go over well with my parents. I remember being stressed and worried about their reaction; my parents are Christians and my dad is a pastor, so it wasn't that they didn't want me serving God, it was the uncertainty given the change and the fact I wouldn't continue school as I had planned and as they had expected. I started praying about how I should tell them about my new plan and for peace no matter their reaction. I remember one specific day I was journaling and praying, I told God, “Lord I am thankful for my family, it is the most important relationship you have given me but if this relationship is the price I have to pay in order to serve you, then take my family and lead me where you want me to be.” When I had the chance to speak with my parents, I had a great conversation and my parents expressed full support. The expectations I thought they had placed on me and what I initially thought was my perfect plan, to go to college then graduate school to land the perfect job, didn't matter anymore. God had worked on all of our hearts and minds to align them with where he was leading me. This is the job that brought me to the city of Boston where I've learned so much about myself and who I am in Christ; I have made new friends and found an incredible community to belong to. This is just one of many instances where my perfect plan hasn't even begun to compare to the road where God has led me.
Unfortunately we live in a world obsessed with perfection: the perfect picture to post on social media, the perfect job, whatever way to improve ourselves and strive for perfection. I believe the issue is way beyond what we often notice; it is so ingrained in us to follow our hearts and achieve the American dream or whatever you may want to call it. It is so important to portray our very best selves. Think about it: in high school and college we kept striving to get the perfect grades no matter what was left out, be it friends, family or God. Our perfect scores were so important nothing else seemed to matter; now fast forward a few years, was all of it worth it? Don't misinterpret me, I will forever be thankful that I was able to go to college and even more thankful for the things I learned in the classroom, but it doesn't even compare to the incredible things I experienced outside of the classroom: life changing friendships and a renewed relationship with God. I have experienced self-reliance and I have experienced complete surrender and reliance on God and what a difference it has made. I have opened my hand to let go of what little control I think I have. I wish I could say I have figured out how to be less self-reliant and that I have stopped putting myself in situations where I hold myself to ridiculous high standards, but I haven't. At the same time, I know God has been perfectly faithful to remind me of all the ways he is working in me, and the ways he continues to do so today and every day of my life.
For a little over a year and a half I have been looking after two adorable toddlers, who are now four and a half and two and a half, acting as “their grownup” for several hours each day. This has made me think about lots of things regarding how we each become our own individuals. Here they are, these two incredible little boys, and how they grow up depends a lot on what the adults in their life teach them and how they interact with them. As I see them grow up and also grow in their trust in me, I think over and over again, when, in the growing up process, do humans become so obsessed with perfection? As I have become part of their lives and they have become part of mine, my only prayer and expectation is that they see God at work in their lives and that I am able to be honest with them when I make a mistake and that through that they can see God’s merciful and perfecting grace.
I know God’s grace is what sustains me through every season of life as I experience a constant tension between who I am, who I want to be, and what God sees in me that needs work, and ultimately how he sees me because of the sacrifice of Christ for me. Again, without a sliver of doubt I know the Gospel is my redemption yesterday, today and for the rest of my life on earth.
After thinking about it over and over again and knowing there's no way I will ever be the perfect person I wish I could be, I know God is still molding me to be the woman he created me to be.
For as we read, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).