The Perfectionist’s Redemption
Indeed, such a mirror does exist, and its truth far outweighs any self-incriminating thoughts I could have or condemning thoughts from anyone else. This mirror is the Bible. James 1:23-25 says:
“For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”
Though these verses are admonitions to be both a hearer and doer of the Word (and these certainly should not be overlooked,) I want to point out how the Word is symbolized as a mirror in this passage and that it is like looking into the “perfect law of liberty.” And who is the author of this perfect law? The answer is found in 2 Corinthians 3:17-18: “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” The Bible is clear that it was written by men inspired and directed by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21, 2 Timothy 3:16.)
By correlating the above verses from James and 2 Corinthians we can conclude that when we allow the Spirit of God to work in us, showing us our true selves through the mirror of His Word, we can see where we are potentially bound in our thinking and/or what has us bound and also, what He wants for us. The only mirror worth looking into that accurately shows who I am- both as someone who has fallen short of both my expectations and God’s glory, (Romans 3:23) yet as one loved beyond all human comprehension (1 John 3:1) is the mirror of God’s Word. Being loved by the Perfect One is not something that is supposed to intimidate me because I can’t be perfect. It is supposed to bring hope, healing, and comfort because I can’t be perfect. However, just because I can’t be perfect doesn’t mean I can’t be loved perfectly. And I am indeed loved perfectly by the Almighty God Himself. He understands every thought, already knows every word I will ever speak, every feeling I will ever have, and foresaw all my days before I was even created.
I believe it grieves God when I grieve over my failures and imperfections. When I spend more time focusing on what I am not instead of Whose I am, I am usurping His place in my heart and life. No matter what I attain, I will only be satisfied when I awake with the likeness of Christ (Psalm 17: 15.) Experiencing and reflecting the love of Christ and bringing Him glory is the point of life, after all.
What is so vital about looking into God’s mirror instead of other mirrors (such as my expectations, the perceptions of others, or even the glass mirror that reflects so much more than just my appearance)? How does the mirror of the truth of God’s Word produce redemption for the perfectionist?
Psalm 19:7-14 is a good place to start. Though different words are used as synonyms for the Bible, there are several ways just in this Psalm that show the power of God’s Word: 1) It is perfect; 2) it converts (or restores) the soul; 3) It grants wisdom (including about who I am and who I was created to be); 4) it rejoices the heart; 5) it is pure and enlightens the eyes; 6) It is clean and endures for ever; 7) it is true and righteous; 8) by it we are warned and receive great reward in obeying it; 9) it shows us our secret faults, exposing our habits, and reasons we fail but also grants hope and power for change.
Some other passages worth studying include:
-Psalm 119, which goes into tremendous detail about the power of God’s Word and its impact.
-Hebrews 4:12 is also worth considering and memorizing.
-2 Peter 1:3-4 shares that through God’s promises we can be partakers of His divine nature.
There are many other passages that could be listed attesting to the power of God’s Word and how it can change and heal us. In the context of this essay, what is the bottom line? God didn’t create us, and Jesus didn’t die for us to remain bound, self-defeating, and thinking of ourselves lower than we should. Paul said in Romans 12 that we should think soberly of ourselves- not more highly than we should but we should also recognize that thinking too lowly of ourselves is not thinking soberly. Being drunk on self-pity isn’t much better than trying to justify self-aggrandizement. We were created to be free- to be loved freely by God, to love Him, others- and ourselves, freely, unselfishly. Self-pity is one of the most selfish things we can do. We vex the Holy Spirit and hinder His work to lead us to live under the perfect law of liberty when we spend time wallowing in what we are, don’t have, and want to be but can’t seem to succeed at.
In conclusion I want to quote the point of a previous post called The Blame Game which was a precursor to this post and was the thesis for this essay: Jesus paid the price for the things we beat ourselves up for. His Passion and the Cross paid the price for ALL of our shortcomings, failures, shame, sins, flaws, mistakes, regrets, and everything else we beat ourselves up for. He certainly doesn’t deserve the blame for the ways we fall short but His acts of sacrificial love and taking our shortcomings upon Himself paid the price so that we don’t have to beat ourselves up. It’s not that we don’t have to repent and allow the Spirit to change us to be more like Jesus, but we have no reason to waste our time berating ourselves or worse, hating ourselves, when we fail or make a mistake.
Because of the Cross our mirror no longer has to be a punching bag for He paid the price for our forgiveness, healing (inside and out,) and freedom. We are new creations with the power of the Holy Spirit to see ourselves for who we really are- imperfect people perfectly loved despite our shortcomings. Tripping over my own shadow through the broken glass of my expectations for years on end has left me exhausted. But falling at the feet of Christ in humility, not humiliation, and surrendering all of the regrets, failures, and feelings that belie the truth of His Word, doesn’t produce the shame I detest but the redemption I need. Upon looking in the mirror of God’s Word and falling at the feet of Christ, I find what I need and want more than anything else: the ultimate redemption through the perfect love stronger than the reasons a perfectionist could ever have for lamentation.