For by grace you are saved through faith; and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, Not by works lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8,9)
Amy Julia Becker is a perfectionist and deeply devoted to her Christian faith. She even attended Princeton Theological Seminary. Yet, after her daughter, Penny, was unexpectedly born with Down syndrome Ms. Becker experienced an emotional and spiritual crisis.
Penny wasn’t “perfect.”
In her book, A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny, Ms. Becker talks about the interrelationship of her daughter, her faith, and her need to be a perfectionist — a force so strong that she even avoided taking certain classes if she believed she wouldn’t get an “A” grade.
During an interview, Ms. Becker was asked, “In retrospect, would you consider your perfectionism a stumbling block to a deeper relationship with God?”
“Yes! And it’s ironic,” she answered, “because there’s a sense that what God wants for us through Christ is our perfection. But it’s such a different perfection than the perfection that the world offers us. It’s such a different perfection than my sense of essentially wanting to be able to do everything by myself.”
“I had this perfection in mind that was about autonomous individuality [not needing God] as opposed to becoming a part of the Body of Christ,” which included God as well as other people to help me grow into the person that God wanted me to be — a person with needs and wants and limitations.
“Having a daughter with a disability,” she concluded, “is what God used to help me see how wrong I was in the way I was striving for perfection.”
Ms. Becker echoes what Pastor Charles Spurgeon lectured a hundred years ago. “When we once endeavor to conceive perfection — without fault, without flaw — we are lost because we are imperfect! And therefore we cannot understand perfection any more than the finite can grasp the infinite! Perfection, indeed, seems to be the sole prerogative of God.”
If we learn anything from the Bible, especially the Book of Psalms, it’s that it is OK to wrestle with the problems in life. Our relationship with Jesus is not so much about him tolerating our sin, but him loving us as we grow, with his help, into perfection.