In light of yesterday's post, I felt this would be a fitting Chapter 2.
My friend Lindsay gave me the honour of guest blogging on her site a few times in 2014 and I thought I'd share some of the love here.
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’ ” Martin Luther King, Jr.
I love working with Excellence. I Love It.
But Excellence has a trickster cousin, that cruel master, the bewitching goddess Perfectionism.
Pristine, she is all that glitters and all that kills.
You may be seeking Excellence only to wake one day and find Perfectionism in her place.
Once upon a time I was a perfectionist. The typical firstborn, type-A personality, I loved excelling. In school, I was the first to raise my hand, spout out an answer, argue a point with even the strictest of teachers.
I still remember winning the kindergarten-wide race we had or placing sixth in my entire elementary school for our physical fitness competitions.
Or doing third grade math in second grade. I liked being Right, I liked being Good.
Gosh, I sound annoying. And maybe I was a bore but I was happy in my competitive, perfect space.
But perfectionism is a demanding god, a heartless, soulless wrench. Never feeling like you are good enough, not “there”, not ever feeling as if you are enough. It’s a death pit with a tantalizing cherry on top to distract the eye and draw you in.
It is a cruel dance.
And then there is her arch-enemy, the slothful Apathy. Apathy is a lazy master, full of ignorance and loathing.
Once upon a time, I was mostly apathetic. Through a series of events, I lost any desire to succeed. I starting embracing this thing called apathy.
Let’s just be honest here-I had learned the hard way how badly it felt to fail, to care, to be smashed to pieces and so I buried my ambitions.
All through my photojournalism courses in university I’d shrug. “I’d have to sell my soul to become good at photography, I think I’ll just stay human.” …Right.
It wasn’t some sorry-ass excuse to not try-I ate my heart out trying. But it softened the blow when I didn’t measure up to some unseen standard of greatness.
When I didn’t care, or at least made myself believe I didn’t, then botching up anything-or falling short of the mark- hurt far less than it otherwise might have.
After university, I stayed home to work at a going-nowhere, minimum-wage job because the thought of anything else-anything Unknown in that Great Big World out there-sounded too daunting and fearful to take on.
Living without risks, without caring, seemed like the best option. This Fear felt safe and secure. This immobility felt comforting and easy.
Sometimes I told myself I would stay in that place forever.
The drive for perfectionism is often paralyzing and sometimes we just need to get out of the starting gate even when it is messy.
The fear of man can be paralyzing if we ascribe to it, and we have to make the choice to let go of others’ opinions to live in any measure of freedom ourselves.
There is a Chinese proverb that says Be not afraid of growing slowly, be only afraid of standing still.
I was on the cusp of choosing to stay motionless forever because it felt easier on almost every level.
I distinctly remember the moment when I decided to step out again, no matter the cost. I started forcing myself to take risk after risk. It was terrifying. And it hurt. A Lot. I failed. A Lot. I faced rejection. A Lot.
None of this felt even the tiniest bit good.
But, in the midst of those bloody steps, there was such a lovely freedom in falling into the hands of God, trusting His guidance and simply letting go. Letting His voice be the only one that truly mattered in the midst of triumphs or defeats.
I started to celebrate the lessons I learned with every mistake or misstep, to dance with Him through all the successes of my story and the too many disasters.
There is much to be said about caring too much and not caring at all, between striving and apathy, between faith and taking risks, between perfectionism and a healthy drive for excellence.
I daily ponder the tension of these matters.
But I know this for sure- our journey calls for steps forward, even if they are baby steps. It calls for a few unknowns, and even more risks. I love what Whittier said-that Faith was stepping into the seeming void to find the rock beneath.
So whatever you are called to do today, go out there and kick some butt. Let go of perfectionism and aim for the more noble Excellence. Let yourself care even when caring feels like death, but don’t care at the cost of all else.
Ignore the prying eyes of anyone around you and just dive in, even if you have to close your eyes to make the leap. Land on the rock of His love, even when all else fails, even your best of ideas.
Because even when you crash in the process, you’ll rise from the ashes- stronger and more beautiful than ever.