How Being Present Unlocks the Grip of Perfectionism's Lies
By Julie Klein
Hear Him Louder Essay Series: Julie's Story
My son maintains a devoted partnership with perfectionism. Whenever he is asked to do something new, he seethes, for fear that he will fail to master it the first time. The pressure to control the outcome draws him into its sticky web.
I remember when I first read him chapter books. He promptly seized the book from me and furiously flipped through the pages with his chubby, dimpled hands. I exclaimed, “Buddy, what are you doing? Do you want me to read?” He replied, “I am looking through all the pictures. I need to know what will happen!”
This pattern continues to this day, every time we open the cover of a freshly minted book.
I don't know if it's ridiculous or resourceful.
Maybe, for him, the anticipation is just too hard to bear. Even though it ruins the gradual disclosure of the story, it possibly softens the anxiety he feels when he doesn’t know what is next. He needs a hint of what will happen before I even utter the first word.
He already understands the ways of a culture that toils for instant gratification. He simply wants all to be revealed. Now.
My son and I are similar.
I often find myself eager to skip to the end, too. I refuse to pause, show up, and remain present for the irreplaceable moment before me. Instead, I scramble to catch a glimpse of the reality that has yet to appear on the horizon.
However, over time, I have learned if I always strive for the result, I will miss a posture of radical presence for the ongoing narrative Jesus invites me into.
Every day I try to reinforce with my little ones that mistakes and disappointments prepare fertile soil to grow the vibrant flora of our lives. We will always be a work in progress as we flourish with fits and starts along the way.
We are always invited to begin again, and again.
I never learned this as a child. In my formative years, I measured myself against a standard I would never achieve. Perfectionism and performance consumed me. And yet, time has graciously given me the space and grace to alter the script on my unrealistic expectations so that I can, instead, hold a posture of presence.
Over the past few years, life has revealed a narrative few of us would have chosen if we were in control. Yet, even during uncertainty, I refuse to miss the unexpected. I want to embrace it all: the joys, the disappointments, and everything in-between.
I don’t want to miss the unexpected, yet unparalleled details of the unfolding plot.
Jesus invites me into the essence of the story before me: the setting, the theme, the conflict, the climax.
A particular Bible narrative caught my attention while wrestling with my unhealthy attempt to maintain control during this unpredictable time:
“And Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him here.’ So they called the man who was blind, saying to him, ‘Take courage, stand up! He is calling for you.’ And throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and came to Jesus. And replying to him, Jesus said, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ And the man who was blind said to Him, ‘Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!’’’ (Mark 10:49-51, NIV)
As I read this narrative, a particular detail reaches out from the page to secure my attention. Right before this man jumps up and sprints to Jesus, he throws off his cloak.
I wonder, why is the cloak mentioned?
Maybe he throws off this cloak because it’s too heavy and holds him back, so he decides to ditch it. His cloak, the weight he has hidden under for so long, is a hindrance to his healing. He hides under a burden—a false protection—he no longer needs to carry.
Or maybe this cloak is the only material thing he has. People with disabilities in biblical times begged for provision on the streets, so perhaps it's his most valuable possession. Maybe, in this holy moment, compared with the chance to encounter Jesus, the blind man’s cloak meant little to him.
The blind man can leave what hinders him in the dust.
He can lay down his cloak of protection and possession.
I can learn from this. When I choose protection and possession in my life, I am held back from greater freedom in my relationship with myself and others.
I hear Jesus gently whisper, “Julie, your perceived control has become both a false protection and a great possession to you. Throw off the burden of control and surrender it to me. You will feel freedom from a heaviness you no longer need to carry. You can leave it in the dust.”
As I hear this gentle nudge, I breathe a sigh of relief.
I am learning to remain present for the unfolding of the plot before me—a plot written by the one who cradles this fractured world in His tender, scarred, mighty hands.
Photo credit: Wix Media.
The Hear Him Louder Essay Series is a guest essay series where God's daughters share their stories of hearing God’s whispers in their every day. It’s meant to serve as an encouragement for the times when God feels far and seems quiet. When we read each other’s stories of how He meets us, it reminds and reassures us that He is near. May this series be an invitation for us to listen for His voice together.
Don't miss any posts in this series! Subscribe to receive notifications for each new essay, posted every other Thursday. When you subscribe, you'll receive a link to a FREE resource, A Listening Guide + Prayer Map, which walks you through four heart postures to help you learn to hear His voice in prayer. This guide is a tool to listen for Him differently, and capture your prayer time in a new way, helping you know Him deeper and hear Him louder.
Learn more about each posture:
1 | Know: Will God Speak, Even to Me?
2 | Expect: Can I Expect to Hear God?
3 | Listen: How Do I Listen for God?
4 | Connect: Is God Really Right Here?
New to this series? Check out the rest of the series!
Interested in contributing to the Hear Him Louder Essay Series? The call for submissions opens twice a year. To submit an essay outside of those windows, contact me.
Julie is a social worker/mental health counselor. Though she is not currently in the social work field, her heart remains hopeful for social justice in this fractured world. She stays home constantly herding and unschooling her intensely spirited children. A pour-over cup (or two or three) of coffee is her lifeline and keeps her in the game.
She is a fierce advocate for showing up with vulnerability and authenticity, believes everyone has a powerful story to share, and is convinced words hold the unique power to connect with others. She writes at the intersection of her evolving faith and the joys of life, the inevitable grief of life, and the gray that is in-between. Though she has called various cities across the United States home, she now resides outside of Seattle, Washington with her husband and three children. You can find Julie on Instagram.