By Lea Wojciechowski
I’m a perfectionist. I’ve long lived under the illusion that my wild hopes of achieving a perfect life would be fulfilled. I’ve dreamed of perfect romance, fulfillment, happiness, peace, joy, beauty, love. I dreamed that if I only waited a little longer, that unnamable thing that I was waiting for would present itself to me. I dreamed that my tendency to set standards of perfection would for once not result in disappointment.
Life can be a perpetual state of waiting – the feeling you get when you’re sitting by the phone waiting for a call from someone you thought loved you. You’re filled with hope and expectation, yet simultaneously the fear that you’ll be left empty and disappointed.
If you have low expectations you’re less likely to be disappointed.
True in a way, bitter and hard-hearted in a way. In the pain of loneliness, hope sometimes dissolves. Maybe it’s human nature – we have a longing to feel special and fulfilled, so much so that we’ll do things that satisfy our desires for just a few minutes – a fleeting, disappearing few minutes. When those few minutes are gone, we want more. We’re never satisfied. We seem to be strung along time after time. For me, the reality seems to never reach the height of my expectations, and so I lower my expectations. I lower my hopes. Next time, I rationalize, I will feel better. Next time I will be happy.
Sometimes I try to avoid the few minutes of a high because the aftermath of the thrill is a heartbreaking reminder of the impermanence of happiness. I feel both joy and sadness so easily, so readily, and I wonder – is it more difficult to exist on a flat line of neutral and colorless contentment, or to ride up and down crazily on an emotional rollercoaster of euphoria and despair? How easy it is to feel alone, isolated, to feel like the only one going through something, yet I’d wager that so many of us experience this.
Life is perplexing. It can be fun to go through days with no worries or cares, simply enjoying things that come along, spur-of-the-moment passions and pleasures. But the spontaneous highs can’t last forever – eventually we must crash back down to the bottom of the roller coaster, back to reality. The higher we were the more stark the pain when we drop back down to the bottom. As we seek happiness and fulfillment, we tend to get caught up in the thrills that satisfy just for a time. After we pass the peak of this fleeting enjoyment, we encounter the crushing realization that we still haven’t found happiness that lasts.
In somber moments such as these, God is the only one who can truly comfort me. As I cry myself to sleep, I beg Him to comfort me, to give me strength. I don’t want to feel sorry for myself. I know that I have it good, that many people in the world are facing struggles more real and dangerous than mine. When I feel trapped in my pain, I turn to God, hoping He can pull me onto solid ground – trusting that He will if only I ask.
Life is fleeting. We are not meant for this world of imperfection and sadness – maybe that’s why we never feel truly satisfied. “Let not your hearts be troubled…” Yes, but because of sin and the realities of life on Earth, our hearts will always be troubled. Peace comes in the wisdom of knowing how to have a trusting, untroubled heart in the midst of a troubled world. When I wonder why my life is such that it is, God gives me a gentle reminder, the glow of a spark becoming the fire of realization, that He purposely gave me what I have, and He purposely created me the way I am. And He never makes mistakes. I have a name. I am a child of God. I am here, where I am, who I am, for a reason. Finding meaning and fulfillment, seeing the path set before us, makes life worth living. I may not know exactly what my path is, but it’s not completely necessary to know. I just need to trust God and believe that there’s something to offer, someone to serve, somewhere to go.
I’m a perfectionist, but my recent prayer has been words, I believe, straight from the mouth of God: “My beloved daughter, I wish to free you from the burden of perfectionism. I want you to surrender. To let go. To know that I accept you and love you despite your imperfections. You don’t have to prove yourself to Me. Just let Me heal you. Let Me free you.”
Gradually I am realizing that life is not about doing whatever you want whenever you want, having the perfect family and body and job and relationships, or being happy-go-lucky all the time. Life is a series of challenges. The path set before each of us is constantly evolving as we make our choices. Life is about reaching out to the One who can truly listen to us and comfort us in our pain. Life is about learning to value the perfection of the next world more than the desired perfection of this one. Life is about looking beyond the tantalizing gifts of this world to the guaranteed gifts of the next.
We were never meant to base our lives on one fleeting thrill after another. There is a greater purpose to our lives on Earth. There is a higher calling. There is a life of true, unending happiness prepared for us in the kingdom of God. Excitement and fun times are not bad, but it is only by basing our lives in the stability of God’s love and righteousness that we will find true happiness, true peace, in the midst of a sometimes painful and lonely reality. I ask God to hold me and to comfort me, and He does. And I find I can raise my head, my expectations, my hopes, and survive.
Let us pray: God, give us strength. Let us see the rays of hope you send to us in this world – a baby’s smile, a moment of laughter shared with a beloved friend, the warmth of sunshine, the joy of inspiring or being inspired, the realization that all things work for those who love You. Let the beauty of hopeful reminders sustain us until we see Your face.