This post is part of our Lenten series, journeying the Stations of the Cross. In this reflection on the First Station of the Cross, Jesus Is Condemned to Death, our Editor Caitlyn talks about rejecting perfectionism, embracing imperfection and an identity founded on Christ.
I’m quick to condemn myself. I often place a too-heavy focus on my failings and shortcomings. It can lead to spiraling thoughts of “maybe I’m not cut out for this” when I know very well God has called me to a task, or “nobody else seems to struggle over things like this” even though it’s doubtful I would know if they did, or “maybe I’m just not good enough.”
And the phrase, “good enough,” hangs there for a moment before a little voice in my heart asks, “What is ‘good enough,’ Beloved?”
I’ve been here before: A gentle but firm reminder not to compare myself to others. That I shouldn’t strive to be like someone else, I need to be the person He created me to be. But I don’t know who that is. I’m still working on figuring that out.
I want to approach my suffering with courage, like Ignatius of Antioch. While being led to his martyrdom, Ignatius pled in letters to the Christian community not to pray for his life to be spared—but that he be found worthy by his witness to be called a Christian. And I want to be faithful like St. Teresa of Calcutta, who suffered in long darkness without the tender consolation of Our Lord. I want to persevere like Paul in the face of insults, setbacks, and discouragement.
But it’s more likely that my path to holiness looks very different from theirs. And the truth is, they weren’t “good enough” either. Our Lord reminds me of this when my thoughts tumble into the cloud of my own imperfection—the saints were not perfect, spotless, sinless. They struggled. They doubted, and they trusted. They sinned, and they repented. They modeled lives of sanctity, of striving for God in the midst of their many struggles and temptations.
They are models of a Christian life, but they are not models of perfection. He, Christ, is the model of perfection. And it is He who makes perfect—yet He doesn’t make us perfect in this life. We are in a state of journeying toward what we will become, a state of being made ever more perfectly in His image, and yet not yet attaining that goal.
He directs my gaze to the cross—to the jeering crowd on all sides of that cross, who stood before the all perfect God and shouted, “Crucify Him!” Who accused Him of blasphemy for claiming to be precisely who He is.
So it seems that true perfection, to the eyes of this fallen world, is an offense punishable by death. He who is perfect entered into the most horrific, gruesome suffering to restore His beloved, fallen humanity. He entered into my deepest wound, to show me how to enter those broken spaces of my heart, to let Him in, to let Him heal what He finds there. To make me more like Him.
I am often reluctant to let Him work this healing. It’s uncomfortable to look at those wounds, to recognize that need for healing. And even recognizing God’s love, His goodness, His infinite mercy, it’s frightening to open my heart even to Him who made it, who knows it best, who is most equipped to heal it. Because in so many ways, I am so far from Him.
But He is not far from me. And He reminds me time and again that He didn’t make me to be perfect. He didn’t form me in my mother’s womb just so that I would shout false accusations at myself. He created me in His image and likeness. He who is perfect created me, shaped me, formed me, and He sees me as very good.
He calls me to share in His own goodness, to take up my own cross and follow Him. To set down the stones I would hurl at myself, and trust in this journey by which He makes me new. Not a repeat. Not a recycling of some past creation. He makes me, and He makes me new.
“It is good,” He says of all His work. I am good. And it is enough to be His.
For behold, I create new heavensIsaiah 65:17-18
and a new earth;
and the former things shall not be remembered
or come into mind.
But be glad and rejoice for ever
in that which I create