Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Mom: Avoiding the Pursuit of Perfection

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12–14

“To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side, I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.” Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

 

  • Today, the invitation from the Holy Spirit is to come to Him to reshape your sense of identity and accomplishment. God invites you to see His ongoing work in your heart and not to cling to your past failures. Choose in this moment that you will resist the temptation to perform for God to earn His approval. His love and care are unconditional.
  • Open your Bible and read James 1:22-25. What is God telling you about the process of transformation? How is Spirit-filled transformation different from the pursuit of perfection?
  • Call your prayer partner for your 10-minute prayer call. What a gift it is to have a friend with whom to pray!

It’s easy to get caught in the trap of pursuing perfection in our motherhood: whether it’s our bodies, our party-planning abilities, the cleanliness of our homes, our children’s behavior, our financial portfolios, our health, our home décor, or even our spiritual growth. When our eyes are fixed on ourselves and our performance, we become entrapped in a life that Jesus never offered us. We were never intended to strive after perfection. Instead, if we allow Him, Jesus will use our children as full-length, life-sized, animated mirrors to allow us to see our need for His love and grace. Our children’s behaviors and choices mimic who we are. They behave like us, repeat our words and voice
inflections, and value what we value. They are a real-time report card of who we are—not necessarily who we want to be.

When my son was in preschool, he drew a picture for me on the front of a homemade Mother’s Day card. The picture of me was a simplistic round circle for a head, a big smile, and two bright, shining eyes. I was thrilled that my son viewed me as such a joyful person. Then there was my hair. I had long blonde hair on the sides, but at the top of my head, he had used a black crayon. Curious, I asked my son, “Is Mommy wearing a hat in this picture?” “No,” he replied. “Mommy, your hair is yellow here (pointing to the side of my head), but on the top it is black.” As busy moms, we can get a few weeks delinquent in taking care of our roots, but really? Half of my hair was black! I smile now when I think of his exaggerated perspective. I also realized that day that my son would be a mirror that reflected back to me what I portrayed to others. His innocent honesty would allow me to see what I had never seen before—if I was willing to look.

In the Bible, the book of James gives good advice to not only hear what is true but also to do something about it. James said:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues in it-not forgetting what they have heard but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. (James 1:22–25)

The “perfectionist” inside of us does not want to look at flaws or areas of improvement. This beast inside of us is afraid to fail, be less than, or be wrong. It’s a full-time job to be right all the time. But one of the most beautiful ways that God will spiritually form us, truly transform us, is by using our children to help us see our lives in a spiritual mirror. What we see in our “mirrors” and lives will offer us two options: we can lean into God so He can form us to look more like Jesus, or we can choose to walk away, immediately forgetting what we look like. The second option is tragic.

God our Father is the only perfect One, and He redeems our imperfections, failures, and disappointments in order to reveal Himself. He is the “something more” that our hearts long for. And if we allow it, these painful imperfections will become the catalysts for finding the freedom that we were really created for in the first place.

So take a moment right now as you read this chapter to thank God for your family, imperfections and all. Thank God for your disappointments. “Give thanks in all circumstances” is the instruction given to us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18b. Because ultimately, He knows what is for our good and His glory. In admitting this, we can stop trying to “make it better” with our drive to achieve, receive grace to accept the things we cannot change, and allow God His rightful place in our journey of becoming more like Jesus.

Blessings and Love,

Dr. Michelle Anthony

Questions to Ponder

  • In what ways have your children (or your spouse) acted as mirrors to disclose both attractive and unattractive qualities in yourself or your actions?
  • Can you identify a time when you wanted to be perfect or perform for God or others so that they would love or accept you more? How did this make you feel? Why is this pursuit fruitless?
  • When have you believed the lie that your brokenness or the brokenness of your family may eliminate you from participating in the story that God is writing?

Faith-Filled Ideas

Here are some ideas that helped me as a mom to move away from a perfection model of parenting:

  1. Spend limited time on social media in healthy ways. Too much time looking at the “highlight reel” of someone else’s life can rob you of joy and send you pursuing an unrealistic set of standards.
  2. Imagine the grace that you give to others, including your children, and offer that same gift to yourself. Release yourself from needing to get it “right” all the time.
  3. Practice saying, “I’m sorry” rather than defending yourself and needing to be right or perfect. An apology goes a lot further than perfection ever will.

Start putting these things into practice today! Learning to live life outside of the demands of perfection takes time and intentionality. Only Jesus is perfect, and He will be the one to perfectly love you and release you from the bondage of performance.

Michelle Anthony

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