There have been many times when I’ve felt so upset at my failures and shortcomings. I become angry at myself whenever I fail, mess up, or sin. I become angry when I require help, and when I easily tire at persevering through trials and struggles. I want to be strong for God; I want to please God; I want to do everything right.
While I can acknowledge that it’s impossible for me to do everything right, I still find myself upset and discouraged whenever I mess up. At times like this I often rally and resolve to do better next time. I become consumed with my quest for perfection. That’s a good thing, right? Shouldn’t I be trying to perfect, sanctify, and renew myself daily? Doesn’t that please God?
While God does want me to be sanctified, renewed, and transformed, he never places this burden upon me alone. Seeking perfection with a restless anxiety is certainly not his will for me. This pursuit of perfection becomes an idol for me and keeps me in knots all day long as I try to do everything right. By doing this, I think I am pleasing God!
We have this book in our shelf called The Dialogues of Fenelon that my Mom loves to read. She had encouraged me to read a particular section of it one day, and being intrigued I thumbed through the pages and found a chapter called “Self-Consciousness.” I always used to think that self-consciousness was a good thing. It meant that you were consceiountess about yourself and what you did. That you desired to do everything right. So I eagerly started to read the chapter, hoping to find insight on how to better attain my pursuit of perfection.
“I quite understand that all of your troubles come from excessive self-consciousness.”
The first sentence of the chapter smacked me in face. As I read the rest of the chapter I was amazed. Self-consciousness, a quality I had previously believed was so good to have, was now shown to be deceitful and dangerous.Fenelon explained that,
“One of the most dangerous delusions of self-love is when we grow sentimental over ourselves, are perpetually self-engrossed, and are absorbed in ourselves with a restless, anxious care which troubles, withers and disables the heart, deprives us of the consciousness of God’s presence, and ends by hopelessly depressing and discouraging us…You will watch all the better for the real correction of your faults, and the fulfillment of your duties because of the absence of all this self-willed restlessness. Then it will be out of love of God that you will simply and quietly repress whatever that watchful love shows you to be faulty and unworthy of the Beloved.”
I was so convicted as I read this. I had been so absorbed and consumed with myself, so full of self-love as I try to perfect myself that I had lost sight of God. Jesus will sanctify and transform me more perfectly and peacefully when I am focused, consumed, and absorbed with Him instead of the perfection of myself. I never realized that this pursuit of perfection, though birthed out of a desire to please God, was destroying me. As my mother told me, I don’t have to be the perfect daughter for God I just need to let Him be the perfect Father for me. God loves me, and his pleasure does not rest on my perfect performance. He does not want me to be absorbed in the pursuit of perfection, but rather wants me to be absorbed in Him, and to lose sight of myself as I am completely focused on Him.
Jesus will sanctify, cleanse, and transform me as my eyes are fixed solely on Him. I am working daily to let go of my self-love, and accept that though I can never be the perfect daughter, God is my perfect Father, and he is worthy of my undivided love and attention. God doesn’t expect me to be perfect; He just wants me to be so very much in love with Him, and to keep my eyes on Him alone. Throughout the day, as I am tempted to become absorbed in perfecting myself, I imagine Him reminding me with one simple sentence filled with infinite love and tenderness, “You look at Me.”