I have been sitting at my desk for a solid fifteen minutes at a complete loss for how to start writing. Sam is at school, Ray is at work, and I am living my first day off in a very long time. My brain feels like an indecisive squirrel trying to get across a four-lane highway. Do I do chores first? Do I write for self-care? Do I run errands? Do I have coffee or tea? Do I shave my legs? So many possibilities, and yet sitting like a vegetable at my desk was not on my dreamy to-do list today.

I cannot shake the feeling that this pseudo-vegetable state is becoming more of a norm and less of an exception for me the more I add to my plate. When I was single, pre-husband and definitely pre-kid, my brain operated with greater clarity and efficiency that fueled my propensity for perfectionism quite well. Add one part husband, one part toddler, a few cups of exhaustion and a dash of the ever-sanctifying Holy Spirit, and my engine of a brain is firing nowhere near the level of perfection I would like. I realize that I have never been, nor ever will be perfect. The trap of perfectionism is not the belief that you are perfect but that you can, with great effort and performance, get as close to perfect as possible someday. I also realize that sounds irrational, insane, and a myriad of other hyperbolic adjectives that could be summed as “stupid,” but when you wrestle with perfectionism it is not always so obvious.

Yesterday, Ray and I sat in our parked car in our driveway after church. You do things like this when your kid falls asleep on the way home and moving him risks waking a potential cranky, hangry monster. We were talking about me going back to graduate school, something that Ray has championed and cheered for since we got married because he takes my dreams more seriously than I do sometimes. I wanted to crumple (and still do) under the looming workload, debt, life change, and increasing risk of failure, whereas he was trying to elevate my vision on the presence of the Lord, God’s faithfulness towards us, and the end result of getting to break down barriers to quality mental health care. Finally (since he was making so much sense), I admitted, “I know they cannot and never will be, but I would like to think that I can have things close to perfect! Adding one more thing definitely nixes that!” Insert an eye roll from my sweet husband, an embarrassed laugh from me, and my husband’s encouraging reminder that life would still go on.

As encouraging and truth-speaking as Ray has been in this area of my life, it is always that much sweeter when the truth comes from Jesus Himself. In Mark 14:3-9, Jesus is anointed with incredibly valuable perfume by a woman (most likely of poor repute) as he eats dinner in Bethany. The woman’s action immediately draws the sharp criticisms of those around her, but Jesus stands in her defense:

Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the Gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her. {Mark 14:6-9 ESV}

Notice that Jesus said she had done a beautiful thing TO Him and not FOR Him. Her offering was not to earn Jesus’ affection or favor, nor was it to give Him something that He lacked or needed; she gave in a heartfelt response to who Jesus was. The beauty was offering what she could; no more and no less.

Some days in some seasons, I may have more to give than on other days in other seasons. The quantity is not what matters to Jesus. Jesus was not impressed by the gift; He was in love with the giver. Whether my offering looks like the widow with her two mites, or the woman with obscenely expensive perfume, the heart behind the offering is what makes it beautiful. Both women gave what they could in a gesture of complete trust and unhindered worship which blessed Jesus’ heart.

Jesus has no need or lack, nor is He impressed by anything we have to give Him for giving’s sake.  He simply loves us with a radically freeing love and all-sufficient, gracious compassion in every season, on every day.

-a

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