When Perfection is Too Much Work

Stark naked and vulnerable. That’s how I felt…during a heart thumping, voice-quivering moment…when I took off the pretentious mask of perfection in front of my friends.

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I didn’t plan to bare my soul. However, emotions came to a head…stripping my polished veneer. Exposing the real me. The moment was sobering even for my friends.

Remember Eve in the Garden of Eden? Instead of a mask, Eve tried to cover her shame with fig leaves and hide from God because “she was afraid.”

Afraid of what? God’s reaction and the consequences of having her own way? Or hearing the disappointment in His voice.

Daughters of Eve, have you been there like me? Hiding behind a protective mask..afraid of  what others will think?

We tend to sweep our imperfections beneath a rug and stand on it so no one peeks. Pretend to have it together, and play at the perfect Christian.

We aim for control? Believing if we….

Keep our children in line, our house clean, our faces powdered, our marriages together, our skeletons in the closet, then we’ll appear and feel more….What?

Perfect? Better than?

Be honest. How many of us show up at each other’s homes, secretly relieved, when we find dust bunnies and a ring around the tub? Have you ever opened someone’s refrigerator and smiled. “Is that green mold on the creme cheese? Good! It’s not just me.”

Or we learn to evade our friends’ white-glove inspections and raised eyebrows. Instead of opening imperfect homes and serving second-rate food, we meet our friends at a safe, neutral place where…

We discuss the price of milk, the latest gossip, and exchange recipes…while the whole time…we hold our sticky game cards close to our chest. Let them think I have a royal flush, but not a bad hand.

Even our personal best seems flawed when we’re listening to the enemy’s lie. Isn’t that what happened to Eve?

Why do folks exhaust themselves playing Perfection if nobody can win? Wouldn’t life be easier if everyone admitted…we’re human? (Want to hear about toilet paper stuck to my shoe?) Let’s get real!

Only, nobody wants to go first. Either we’re embarrassed to reveal too much of ourselves. Or fear wagging tongues. Please don’t tell.

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Authenticity is difficult, but let’s face it. Sometimes we have to take a deep breath,  remove the mask, and allow our “ego” to skinny dip in front of our friends before they feel free to do the same.

Thankfully, my girlfriends are solid. They covered my naked, trembling heart with their love and prayers. And showed me, I’m not alone.

Even in this.…masquerade.

“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8)

Photos: Karen Foster

Are you Afraid?

You’ve felt it, right?

Skin tingling, warm neck, heart palpitations….

Compliments of FEAR that rises in your belly even though your mind tries to be rational.

My daughter used to scream whenever she saw a spider on the wall. Using a tissue, I’d grab the innocent, unsuspecting creature, and flush him down the toilet.

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“How can you do that?” she’d ask.

Because I’m not afraid of spiders.

I am, however, afraid of falling from great heights.

A few weeks ago, my husband offered to buy me lunch at Half Moon Bay near San Francisco. Instead of driving four hours, he wanted to fly me there in a two passenger (tandem seating) Citabria. Otherwise known as a taildragger plane.

“It’s only a two-hour flight,” he said. “It’ll be fun!”

Flying, fun? I had a panic attack before I got into the plane.

It’s not that I don’t trust my husband as a pilot. He has thousands of flying hours. But there’s something about sitting in a small area (behind the pilot) with a few inches of light-weight materials (metal, wood, fabric) between me and 3,000 feet of space that makes me….AFRAID!

However, I wanted to be courageous.

While Husband flew the plane, I made myself smile and repeat the Bible verse: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I can do this…even this.

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I also listened to a podcast on anxiety.

The narrator’s soothing voice instructed me to, “Place both your feet on the ground.”

That’s the problem. My feet aren’t on the ground.

“Breathe deep.”

Smells like jet fuel.

“Close your eyes. What do you hear?”

The loud rumble of a single engine with a propellor which I pray doesn’t quit in midair.

Such were my anxious thoughts while my sweaty hands clung to each side of the plane. Not unlike the way I cling to the metal cage of a ferris wheel. As if that would cushion my fall!

When the plane finally landed near the Pacific Ocean, my husband mentioned the breathtaking scenery we’d flown over. I couldn’t comment. I missed most of it because my eyes were squeezed shut.

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As for lunch, I didn’t have an appetite. I stared at the menu, wondering, How much is a bus ticket home?

Do I hear laughter? He who is without fear cast the first stone.

Fear is first mentioned in Genesis when Adam told God, “I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” (3:10)

God knows our propensity to be afraid.

Afraid of objects. Afraid of the unknown. Afraid of change.

Afraid of death, man, failure, rejection.

And yet, whenever fear is mentioned in the Bible, scripture reminds us that in every situation—even death—God is always present and all-powerful.

Therefore, we will not fear though…..

I know this to be true. And “the truth,” Jesus said, “will set you free.” This includes freedom from worry and fear.

That means I must habitually renew my mind by immersing myself in God’s Word in order to know the truth.

And then cling to Truth regardless of sweaty hands.

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Otherwise, I’ll fly through life with my eyes closed. Unable to enjoy the journey.

What makes you afraid?

When Fear is the Driver

“Watch out for deer.”

My palms were sweaty pools while my 17-year-old son drove along the curved, rural highway. There were no guard rails, only pine trees growing on the edge of the foothills.

As we came to a hair-pin turn, my right foot pushed against the car mat.

“Speed limit is 25 M.P.H.”

 I tried not to be a backseat driver. I tried to relax, enjoy the journey. But no amount of caution on my son’s part could loosen my death grip on personal safety.

As the foothills became mountainous, and we arrived to Lake Tahoe, I was exhausted—anticipating danger that never came.

I was born with a fearful nature.

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Growing up, no one told me twice to avoid hazards. Life came with a warning label, and I complied. Being a safety patrol leader and Girl Scout taught me to be safe, and prepared for emergencies.

When I got married and had children, fear deepened. What if” something horrible happens to them? I have to keep them safe.    

Converting fear into faith is a continuous, nail-biting lesson.

When the world news fans my fear, I remember…..

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” (Psalm 46:1, 2)

When my mind entertains what ifs, I remember….

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

When I’m faced with the unknown, I remember…

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

 I remember, but I need to BELIEVE.

God knows the human tendency to be afraid.

Throughout the Bible, when God called people to action, He assured them, “Fear not. I am with you.”  

Even so, people often succumbed to fear rather than BELIEVE GOD.

When I gave the car keys to my son, it was a vote of confidence. My anxious behavior suggested otherwise.

When I was “born again,” I gave God authority over my life…trusting Him to guide me and be present even in the storms.

But when fear detours me from following God, or resting in His promises, I’m saying,

I don’t trust you. I want to be in the driver’s seat.

And that attitude gets me nowhere, except a path of misery.    

What is your first response when you’re afraid?