When I was little, I loved to color. I wasn’t very creative, but one particular day at preschool, I was in the zone. I had a great box of crayons (because that makes all the difference), and I actually stayed within the lines. In my 4-year-old mind, my picture was literally a picture of perfection.
And ever since then, I’ve been chasing perfection in every other area of my life.
More coloring attempts, honor roll and perfect attendance would later hang in that delicate balance. As I got older, it was all about having the perfect outfit, house and marriage. If it was under my control, I wanted it to be perfect.
Yet everything seemed to always fall short of perfection.
As we begin this new year, our resolution lists are long and expectations are high. We have visions of perfection dancing in our heads. And amid all the pressure we put on ourselves, we can sometimes start to think that perfection is what God wants from us, too.
After all, in our key verse, we’re called God’s masterpiece: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10).
Being a masterpiece sounds great, but I will admit I don’t always feel that way. Instead, I can find myself striving to be perfect, ignoring the truth found in the second sentence of the verse: Because of Christ, I don’t have to be perfect. If you, too, struggle with this, you know like I do that it’s exhausting!
Paul, who is responsible for writing almost half of the New Testament, including our key verse, relates to our struggle when he says in Romans 7:15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (NIV). I know what this tension is like! But then in his letters to various churches, he also repeatedly says, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, NIV).
Wait … what? How can Paul bridge the gap between the fight with his flesh and following Christ?
Here’s how: grace.
Paul often bookends his letters with beautiful blessings of grace. For a long time, I struggled with grace — giving and receiving it. I was hard on others because I was hard on myself. If I wasn’t perfect, I felt like I was a mistake.
What happens when you feel like a mistake instead of a masterpiece? Maybe this acrostic will help: G.R.A.C.E.
G ‒ Give yourself a moment. We are human, so it’s normal to be upset when things don’t go as planned. Grieve, and then, when the time comes, move on.
R ‒ Remember God loves you. Paul starts off Ephesians 2 by describing how God is rich in mercy and love. (v. 4) We are not a masterpiece because of anything we’ve done or who we are. It is all because of who Jesus is and His amazing grace.
A ‒ Acknowledge what didn’t go well. Sometimes mistakes happen, but that doesn’t mean you are a mistake. What didn’t go the way you wanted it to? Learn from it. “No matter how many times you trip them up, God-loyal people don’t stay down long; Soon they’re up on their feet …” (Proverbs 24:16, MSG).
C ‒ Celebrate what did go well! Peter in the Bible gets picked on a lot. One of those famous stories is in Matthew 14, when he saw Jesus walking on the water. We often focus on Peter sinking, but we don’t remember this part: “… Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus” (Matthew 14:29, NIV). No one else could say they walked on water, but Peter could!
E ‒ Encourage yourself. The second greatest commandment is to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31a, NIV). Friends, we don’t always love ourselves well, but we should! What would you tell your child, sister or friend if they messed up? Tell yourself the same thing. If it is true for them, it is true for you, too.
Sister, you are absolutely a masterpiece … perfected by Jesus, loved by God and covered in His grace.
Father, I am so thankful You have made me righteous in Christ Jesus. Thank You for loving me on my best days and my worst days. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.