Why do we try to be so perfect?

May 30, 2011Find joy today, Kingdom Uncaged, Write!

Today I’m thankful to have author Tim Sinclair here. He is a radio personality, blogger, and author who lives in Illinois with his wife and two young boys. Tim’s first book, Branded: Sharing Jesus with a Consumer Culture , will be available on June 30th. You can follow Tim on Twitter, friend him on Facebook, and find his blog at his website.

“Pastor’s kids are either perfect, or they’re crazy.”

That joke is common amongst ministry families, and it describes exactly how I felt growing up. As the son of a preacher man, I was dead set against being labeled as a wild child or a rebel…so I decided to shoot for perfection instead. Or, I should say, perceived perfection.

In high school, my public actions had very little to do with me and a whole lot to do with my family. I didn’t smoke, drink, do drugs, or have sex – partly because of the ever-watching eyes of a small community that, I felt, had very specific expectations for the life of a minister’s son.

Privately, I battled the same temptations, frustrations, and addictions that most teenagers did, but I was only willing to entertain them behind closed doors. I was fearful of doing anything that might undermine the impact my dad was having on the tiny town where we lived. Lust, pride, and a constant need for approval, as it turns out, are easily hidden.

My youthful assumption was that living a “perfect” life would reflect more favorably on my parents. I believed that eliminating every possible flaw from view would somehow lend more weight to my dad’s credentials as a pastor and my mom’s resume as a mother.

While those motivations may have been honorable, they weren’t based in reality. Rarely are humans recognized for achievements that are free of conflict. Sully Sullenberger wouldn’t be a hero if he hadn’t successfully landed his plane in the Hudson River. Todd Beamer wouldn’t be revered if he hadn’t said, “Let’s roll” on September 11th. Likewise, parents who are “heroes” – who truly inspire other moms and dads – are those who have overcome great obstacles and challenges with their kids.

I don’t mean to suggest that children should intentionally give their parents opportunities to overcome conflict. Quite the opposite. However, I think it’s all too easy to apply my “perfection principle” to a relationship with Christ.

It’s not uncommon for Christians to assume that an outwardly perfect life reflects more favorably on Jesus. We try to tell His story by hiding our own. We attempt to show a flawlessly perfect Savior with a falsely perfect story.

Christ’s transforming work requires our weakness. It is proven in our struggles. It shines through our pain. The true power of Jesus is revealed when He moves in spite of our mess. We de-value Christ when we limit Him to a single event from two thousand years ago. The truth is that Jesus is at work right now. Today. He’s working in your divorce or depression, in your alcoholism or adultery, in your greed or gluttony. And that work will not only change you…it will change others.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9 Jesus says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” As counter-intuitive as it may seem, hiding our conflict doesn’t make Jesus look better…it makes Him look unnecessary.


So, are you telling a perfect story…or a powerful one?