I’m a detail guy. Mr. Neat. A place for everything and everything in its place. A bit obsessive at times (I prefer meticulous). Thorough, for sure.
I’ve previously confessed such things, affectionately categorizing myself a recovering perfectionist. Each day I go hand-to-hand with my urge to control. Although I don’t completely trust self-evaluation, I do think I’m lessening my grip on ‘perfect.’ I drive a dirty car. The walls of my home are pocked with dings and scrapes and scratches. My lawn is peppered with weeds and I given-up rolling the toothpaste tube with NASA-like precision. Baby steps.
Recently I was ‘blessed’ with another opportunity to face myself.
It was a Sunday morning (isn’t it always?) and we had just arrived at church. My gang was piling-out of the car when my super sensitive dad ears detected the “snap-slap!” indicative of something plastic meeting a sudden death. Instinctively my probing eyes flashed to meet those of a child. Together, our gaze panned to the seat from which said child had seconds ago propelled themself (because stepping out of the car would be too simple). Before us laid a scene of woe: plastic trim – cracked and dangling, taunting me with a subtle bob and weave. That shattered trim was a dagger in the heart of ‘Mr. Perfection.’
Such scenes have been played dozens of times with various characters and props in my 16+ years of fatherhood. Each one adds grey to my crown and something to the ‘fix-it’ pile on my workbench. It makes me weary. It’s difficult to be reminded over and over how this life isn’t going to meet my expectations. From the school for recovering perfectionists I’d like to hear “class dismissed!” I’ve told God as much. But things keep breaking. The weeds keep growing. My boys are still boys. And now the dog has seasonal allergies. Seriously?
Because I need pruning.
Despite my self-proclaimed progress, I’ve still got work to do with killing the idol of perfectionism. Each day is a resubmission of my desires to Jesus Christ so that He might rule my thoughts, words, attitudes, and actions. I want that. God does too. And He promises to help: ““I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:1–2, NIV)
So, as dirty hands make dirty walls and air soft guns poke holes in my vinyl siding, God prunes away my perfectionism. Plastic trim tragedies and soda-stained carpet are much more than moments to practice anger abatement or bemoan crushed desires for a perfect world. Rather, they are well-placed cuts that sever unproductive behaviors so I might be fruitier. It’s a wonderful, painful paradox.