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Ordinary thoughts from ordinary people trying to live on mission with an extraordinary God.

Striving For Perfection

I love the Olympics.

Every time the Olympics roll around my wife and I get excited and even throw Olympic watching parties. My wife was an athlete and most of her family are/were athletes. Me...not so much. I'd definitely rather critique athletes from the comfort of my own couch while eating pizza. But I digress. 

Recently, we were watching the gymnastic events and one of the most popular American gymnasts, who was expected to easily win gold, make a few mistakes and ended up getting bronze.

Now, from my nonathletic perspective, winning bronze and being the third best athlete in the world, in any event, would still have been a good day! But immediately, the media and the whole world practically lost it's mind because they couldn't believe this individual didn't get the gold. They treated the story as if getting bronze was a failure, not the accomplishment that it should have been. 

It honestly made me sad for this individual, especially in light of all the dedication and hard it takes to even compete at that level, let alone medal in an event. It made me sad because we live in a world with such broken systems of thinking about accomplishment, success, and value. This cultural striving for perfection has gotten so bad that now a gold medal is practically the ONLY acceptable accomplishment in the Olympics (for some). 

Personally, this striving for perfection reminded me of a time when I didn't know or understand the gospel.

Growing up I was constantly living to please others around me. I sought to be perfect for those I loved and yet somehow I always came up short. Honestly, it was exhausting and it was miserable to continue trying. 

This broken system of living only produces more brokenness though. It either leads to people faking it until they make it, which never happens, or they simply resign to the fact that they'll never measure up and completely rebel against God or any other authority in their life. In the worst cases, some people do both.

Unfortunately, I chose the "both" option. 

While sitting in a building and playing church on Sundays was easy, it was even easier to live the way I wanted to the rest of the week. I wore two masks and I knew exactly which one to wear around certain people at certain times. This only led to more brokenness and more messiness as I tried to get my life together and figure out how the gospel was actually good news for me.

By the grace of God, I began reading the Bible for myself in college and seeking God and He began to change me from the inside out. I learned that all my striving for perfection was a complete joke. I thought I needed to be perfect, yet the gospel informed me that Jesus came to earth to be perfect for me. He lived the life I could never live and He died the death that I deserved. 

This gospel truth stands in stark contrast to the world in which we live today. 

Jesus was perfect for me and because of the merits of Jesus I can rest in His grace and stop my striving (Hebrews 1:3-4). There is nothing I can do to impress God as a fallible human being constantly bent toward choosing sin (Romans 7:13-20). By His grace, I can rest in the finished work of Jesus that is enough and has nothing to do with me earning it (Ephesians 2:8-9). His work is enough for me and it is enough for you too. 

Stop striving. 

Start resting in His grace.

In Olympic terms, He already won the gold medal for all of us in every event. He willingly gives us His medal that He earned and then desires that we enjoy the benefits of His labor. This is an amazing mystery but one upon which the gospel rests confidently. 

So, the next time you feel the temptation to strive, remember that "it is finished". He has done it! That burden is no longer yours to bear.

Jesus says to all of us, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)