Beauty Not Perfection

Last year, we used a table in our basement to dry potatoes that had been harvested on a rainy autumn day.  And, ironically, in an effort to use them sparingly because they tasted so good, we didn’t eat them all.

Today, I moved a box and found the remnants reaching, dangling, and winding their way around the unsuspecting mason jars looking for soil and sunlight.  They had been growing all winter, spring, and summer.

Four years ago, I would have found this and felt so discouraged. I would have wondered what others would think if they could see this mess.

I would have felt defeated because here was, yet again, another part of my life that was chaotic and unorganized. Another area where I was failing to live up to my standards.

I would have felt irresponsible and wasteful and I would have definitely said outloud, “Why can’t I just get it together like everyone else and have a clean and tidy and non-potato-sprout-growing house?”

Have you ever felt that way or said something like that? Our inner critics can be so very hard .

Four years ago, the mess and the dirt would have sunk me for days. 

But today, I laughed. And I will tell you why.

I am a recovering perfectionist. 

And I am recovering perfectionist because one day I threw out a frustrated prayer and God gave me an answer back. 

I had walked out of Homesense, got into my car, lay my head down on the steering wheel and prayed, 

“God - why doesn’t my life look like Homesense? Why do I have all the good things: healthy kids, loving husband, safe country to live in, warm house - and yet, I still feel unhappy, unsettled, unsatisfied. I can’t figure out how to have this beautiful life that I want.  Nothing every seems right.”

I had prayed this prayer many times.  I had felt this way most of my life, this nagging feeling of never being satisfied. There had never seemed to be an answer to the prayer.

But, much to my surprise, for no reason that I could discern - God answered.

This is what He said, 

It’s because you desire perfection not beauty.”

I was stunned. Stunned because he was so very right. Stunned because I had never separated these too. 

Isn’t perfection essential to beauty?  Aren’t they one and the same? Can something be beautiful if it is not perfect?

My training as a musician had expected perfect mastery of the notes. Of course, I was encouraged to play with feeling and emotion but it would not be beautiful if all the notes were wrong.

I expected myself to be perfect.

And now, as a young Mom, with all the imperfections and messiness of raising little humans - the load had become too much.  The unbearable burden of perfection was squeezing the joy out of my life and I was so unhappy.

I remember when I started a Thankfulness journal - I couldn’t find anything to be thankful for because nothing was perfect, there were flaws in everything.  I am ashamed to admit how sour my soul had become but maybe you have felt the same way too. 

I was looking at my life and unable to see the blessings and the beautiful because I was waiting for it to be perfect. I wanted days with no disobedience from my kids or mistakes from myself. I wanted my house to look like the inside of a magazine and I wanted to feel about my life the way a magazine cover made me feel.

But here's the thing - perfection is a lie.

No one can be perfect. No you, not me, no one.

It’s the lie that caught Adam and Eve. It is the strange and tempting belief that we could be perfect. The lie that we could be God.

When I tried to look for something other than perfection, I began to see so much beauty in the world. I started to be able to be thankful for the things that “were” rather than how I thought things "should be".

I was able to see that beauty is found not inspite of but actually in the imperfections, in my limitations because it is there that I see God working in my life.  It is there that I see God extending grace and love, mercy and faithfulness. Where I am lacking, there He is providing. Where my life is a mess, there can I see Him helping me. Where there are potatoes growing, there I see the wonder of His world.

When I stop trying to BEGod I can begin to SEEGod and that is beautiful.

Learning to desire and pursue God’s beauty in my life rather than perfection, is changing my outlook. My thankfulness journal is not so difficult because I am recognizing so many more things as grace and gifts from Him.

This is good news for me and I hope that it is good news for you. 

When I saw the potatoes and laughed, I realized, in that moment, that God was truly changing my heart. That in a moment that used to defeat me, I now found myself laughing and marvelling at the purple sprouts and the resiliency of the natural world and thanking God for His great creation.

God is reshaping my mind, eyes, and soul to see the world another way.  My eyes are finally learning to see God, present in the imperfections and filling in all that is lacking with His goodness, grace, and love. And this, my friend, is beautiful. 

I am looking for beauty these days - imperfect, messy, gorgeous, heavenly beauty. May you be blessed with potato sprouts in your home today and see them for the wonder that they are.  May you be given the ability to laugh and clean it up and move on with your day not defeated but filled with joy.  

The invitation is open to you too. To look beyond what you wished would be and ask God to help you see what is right infront of you. To see all the ways that God is present right now in the limitations, in your weaknesses, in your imperfections. The question is, are you willing to desire beauty rather than perfection?