I see her face through my camera’s viewfinder: my youngest child, so small, standing among the other medal-winners after this early morning cross country meet. Something isn’t right, but I don’t have words for it.

One of the older boys say, “Lily doesn’t look happy,” and then I see the strain in her smile. For a 9 year old joining a cross country team mid-season, she’s had a remarkable run: second place in the juniors’ division in her first meet; first place in week two; and now fourth place in this third meet—the largest—with 21 teams competing.

A fellow perfectionist, I sigh in understanding. When you hold yourself to a higher standard, you won’t grant yourself the grace you’d give someone else. The strain in her smile reflects the disappointment in her heart: disappointment with herself, from first place to fourth.

LoveIdol_FC_Endorsement_101413-426x640Reading my friend Jennifer Dukes Lee‘s book Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval—and Seeing Yourself through God’s Eyes opened my eyes to the negative effects of my perfectionist nature. Stories about Jennifer’s daughter helped me see similar issues in my own children, especially the youngest, my mini-me.

Jennifer writes: “Personal strength is not necessarily a virtue. Neither is got-it-togetherness. Clearly, Christ has a soft spot for weaklings. He repurposes human weaknesses, using them as doorways through which He escorts great power. Then there’s no question who gets the applause before the final curtain falls.”

Jesus grants us strengths, but reveals Himself through our weaknesses. He loves us, win or lose, first place or last. I’m satisfied with my daughter’s efforts regardless of her place in the race or her presence on the podium.

“Your team cheers so loudly for you. They would all like to go home with a medal or a ribbon, but they’re happy for you and you should be happy, too. No matter how you finish.” She nods and I pray she understands.

Of our four children running cross country, my husband and I are often prouder of the ones for whom it’s a greater struggle, the ones to whom it doesn’t come naturally.

Is this how our Heavenly Father sees us? Is He more pleased when we do harder things; resist bigger temptations; stand firm when we’re ready to give up and give in; die to self and give the glory to Him?

A perfectionist nature is hard to overcome. The world is full of detractors; don’t be your biggest critic. Let’s grant ourselves grace: the grace to fall, the grace to fail, the grace-laced freedom to focus more on His glory and less on our own.


{This is day seven of a 31 day series, 31 Days of Daily Grace. Find all posts in this series here.}


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