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Battling on the Dance Floor

Y'all, the Lord has been reading my mail! Actually, He's been sending some of the sweetest love letters and most difficult packages to my doorstep daily. Want to know how I know? Because last night I was wrecked in the best way possible during my dance class. Yes, while dancing. Since November, Monday nights mean an hour of West Coast Swing. I spent six weeks in the basics, had the most ...unique... date of my life out on the town to practice, attended a convention of epic competition and workshops, and the start of a new year brought an invitation into the advanced class. I was excited. I was pumped. I was ready. Until I got there.

The class is much smaller this go around (which is hard to do after 10 people), and I am one of 4 students. I came in a little flustered after a registration snafu and felt as though I was immediately tossed into the deep end when I had been promised a wading pool. No floaties, no nothing. In the Olympics on day one. At least that's what it felt like. 

We began learning new moves, and I simply wasn't connecting the dots. That is a rare occurrence and I do not like it. I became frustrated, irritated, and started searching for the exit. But that's when a neon sign began to flash in my mind. It became ever so clear. 

I am a perfectionist. But on top of that, if something isn't immediately perfect, I run. I run for my life.

Perfectionism is something I recognized had a hold on my life in college. It's why I was president of everything in high school. It's why I don't sing in front of others. It's why it takes me 3 tries to tweet a simple sentence. I want everything to be perfect. And I want to be instantly good at whatever I put my hand to. This is neither healthy nor godly.

My striving for perfection reveals my determination to be in control. My need to be in control reveals a lack of a need for a Savior. A lack of understanding that I need a Savior above ALL. I have been very blessed in life to be pointed in the direction of my talents and passions and face very little resistance. I think that goes two ways though. I'm also certain that I have faced little rejection and never had to learn discipline because I stay as far away as possible from what I deem out of my limits and beyond my capabilities. 

You want proof? It's the unfinished grad applications on my computer.
More proof? It's the unwritten book in my journal.
Even more? It's the gospel hanging on the tip of my tongue but held captive behind gritted teeth.

I read recently that perfectionists are often procrastinators; they sometimes  think that they don't currently have the skills to do something perfectly, and therefore they don't do it all. I did a double take because this has been so apparent in many places of my life. I either have too much pride and believe that my last-minute, rush job will far surpass the average Joe's week's worth of work, or I become easily intimidated and decide that something is not part of my calling or creativity or course in life and let it alone. 

In my swing class, stumbling around talented dancers, I wanted to hang up my ballroom shoes and bolt out the door. Any suggestions the instructors gave, I took it as a personal critique. Any time toes were tangled when trying a new move, I wanted to toss in the towel. Any special attention given by a kind partner I received as pity and proof of my pathetic abilities. Talk about getting yourself down.

At the end of class, I groaned and laughed off my inability, hoping to jet swiftly out the door. One of the gentlemen I danced with remained engaged in conversation and took the time to encourage me. He complimented my dancing, admitted his own fears and struggle, and went on to ask what I was passionate about. Instantly my moment was flipped upside down. I found the words, "I'm a perfectionist" coming out of my mouth, and he immediately applauded that awareness. He took the time to listen which allowed me to fully form my thoughts instead of ignoring the emotions that were bubbling inside of me. The tears threatening to fall minutes before were banished. Well, for the moment.

My desire for perfection and my need to perform, I now see, is closely related to if not the product of my fear of man. I want to be accepted. I want to be looked up to. I want to be deemed worthy, valuable, and something special. And I have been seeking these affirmations from people, not from the Lord. How long have I let this fear keep me from stepping into the fullness of God's will for my life? I believe the answer is far too long.

The Lord whispered to me while dancing, and He followed me to the car where the tears finally fell. I saw with fresh eyes how paralyzed I was. How I had been living completely captive by fear, perfectionism, and performance. Y'ALL. It is NOT worth it! It is not worth clinging to the safety net on your own. He is worth so much more! If He says step out onto the water, I want to go with no hesitation! If he says "Come away with Me, Beloved," I want to say "Yes!" not "Where?"

As soon as I got home, more mail appeared before me. This time in the form of tweets from two of my favorites.

Again, a neon sign stood before me. "It is okay to be imperfect." Perfection is unattainable. There was One Man to walk the earth that was perfect. But we are perfected in obedience. We are perfected in faith. We are perfected in trust. The Bible says that perfect love casts out fear. I am loved by the Perfect One, so fear begone! The places where I feel imperfect are reveal the most vulnerable places of my heart. Recently I've seen that these places have not been surrendered fully to the Lord.

Ah. There it is. My old friend. My word of the year.

Instead of surrendering, waving the white flag and throwing in the towel, I'm praying for greater faith and reckless abandon. Abandon of self, worry, stress, and perfectionism. I want to dance like nobody's watching even if EVERYBODY is watching. I want to sing my heart out and not care two cents if the girl beside me may as well be Taylor Swift. I want to chase the dreams God has put on my heart and not be consumed by what I perceive others will think or say.

I want to cultivate greater patience, trust, and faith. Patience for the Lord to use difficult times and discipline to teach me His character, reveal His plans, and refine me into a more secure woman of God. I want to trust Him to go before me, walk beside me, and come up behind me. I want to step out in faith, listen eagerly for His whisper, and believe that He has goodness for me.

"By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us --set us right with him, make us fit for him-- we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that's not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand --out int he wide open spaces of God's grace and glory, standing tall and shouting praise. There's more to come... He doesn't wait for us to get ready..."
Romans 5: 1-2, 6 || The Message

He doesn't call me to be perfect. He calls me to be obedient. He calls me to listen. He calls me to dance with him in the midst of trouble and triumph. Even if the battle takes place on a dance floor.

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  1. this is really really eye opening and true to my life as well. thank you for sharing

  2. Incredible words, incredibly written, and incredibly vulnerable. Thank you for sharing. I almost cried at work, but thank you! I needed this word, too. Sic 'Em Bailey!

  3. Thank you for sharing your story. Coming from a fellow perfectionist, I understand completely that need to perform and that need to perform well. That "need" drug me through the mud in college, and my health and relationships paid for it. Some of my favorite lyrics are: "Where can I find rest? Not in accomplishments. Forget this striving I'm done, I want to find rest in the Son." Sometimes I have to sing this to myself when I get frustrated and frazzled. Looks like God is working big things in You - which is always exciting/challenging!

  4. This is such a sweet post! I am such a perfectionist. Lately, I have been rock climbing with my fiance, and I get flustered and frustrated often because I am not perfect at it the first time I try! This is something that I am always working to improve.


  5. wow! This is a fantastic fantastic post and speaks so clearly to my heart too! I'm looking for the favourite button! Just so well written and so much truth in it! What a great revelation for you! And for me too! Thank you!

  6. This is so, so good. I can so relate, and I think you hit the nail on the head when you said "I want to be deemed worthy, valuable, and something special." My desire for perfection comes from deep insecurity that people won't love me or value me if I'm anything less. Once this is said aloud {or typed and published}, however, the insecurity shrinks a little. It holds less power. The darkness does not overcome the light.
    Thank you for sharing this!!