So many of us seek exact guidelines for how to do life. We want a guide to be a good parent, a good husband or wife, a better friend, and for Christians (maybe especially Christians) we want a clear outline on how to be “good.” What is a certain way to know I am accepted and loved without simply believing it? A guide with full-blown details, complete with empty check boxes for our convenience! We are wired to “earn” our acceptance and be “me, me, me” so it can be very foreign to us to think we can just accept Jesus’ sacrifice as the means to be in right standing with God-to be accepted and loved.
However, the perfect guideline we all seek may not bring the glory we think it will. Let’s dive into the story of Noah. No, not the part of the story where he constructs a massive boat and sails through the flood with all the animals. Let’s look at a lesser known story about Noah.
Genesis 6: 14-22 is where God gives exact details to Noah about what to do, what’s going down, and what the result will be. He gave him dimensions, a clear outline, who to bring, what to do, and why. God gave Noah the perfect guideline and guess what happened? You probably expect me to say that Noah blew it, right? Wrong. Noah nailed it! Verse 22 says Noah did everything exactly as God commanded him to do and then as a result, God confirmed a covenant for man through Noah to never flood the earth again. Good things happen when you follow the rules. All you brown-nosers already knew that though, right! (That’s not appropriate.)
Then something great happens (again). God blesses Noah in Genesis 9: 1 the same way he did Adam and Eve. “Be fruitful, multiply the earth. I have given you everything on earth and it looks upon you with fear.” God then blessed Noah’s sons and everything is just hunky dory on Earth right now. But then something terrible happens. Noah is cultivating the earth and decides to plant himself a little vineyard and ends up getting hammered and falls asleep naked in his tent one night. Ham, one of Noah’s sons does something really bad with or to his dad and then tells his other brothers, Shem and Japheth. Shem and Japheth come out and cover their dad up and never set eyes on his naked body. Then, it seems like as soon as God trusted man again, the downfall picked right back up where it left off as Noah condemned Ham’s descendants to be servants all their days. (Genesis 9: 24-28)
So let’s catch up real quick. God gives Noah a great guide on how to do something perfect, exactly to his standards. Noah nails it. God then gives Noah a blessing and gives him some flexibility and authority in order to really do something and be something great. He is telling him “hey I believe in you..you followed my list now I trust you with more.” He blows it. See what’s happened here? Since the beginning of time, we have sought out perfection; we still seek out that checklist to measure ourselves and when we don’t have that it seems like we can’t handle what has been given to us. We do well when we have the guide but we fail when we are given freedom. This isn’t the first time this has happened either. The same thing happened to Adam and Eve. God approved of them from the beginning, giving them flexibility and trusted them to do His definition of Good. He gave them one specific rule. They blew it. Maybe compliance to a perfect list isn’t the end game? What if it is just a pre-requisite to real life? There is more.
As a Performance Coach, I push one of two types of mindsets:
1. A fixed mindset. This mindset is when people think they just need to be good. They need to simply meet the goal and check the boxes off. These people thrive in settings where they have no accountability and they are not responsible for cultivation-just execution.
2. A growth mindset. This mindset is when people believe things can be better, things can be developed or cultivated. They thrive on mastery rather than approval. They don’t seek approval, they seek whether what they did was really effective or not. They are self-aware and see rules as a guide to grow.
I push the second one, and it seems like God wants us in the same growth mindset. He repeatedly gave these people more responsibility and authority and tried to pull His hands out of the work to let the people grow. We couldn’t come through because perhaps the pressure of taking care of a perfect world was too much. What if we messed up? What impact would that have on everyone around them and those to come? God knew we needed help so he sent Jesus. Jesus showed us the way to serve and lead, he showed us how to judge ourselves, and he made a way for grace and forgiveness. He was the last part to God’s perfect plan to build a world full of people with a growth mindset.
I feel I have cheated myself for the last 15 years of my life as I have entered the adult world. I have sought after this perfection in every area: my marriage, my parenting, my job, my acceptance of myself. I never measured up in any area and I let everyone around me down including myself. It made me miserable. I was always running and I just never got there. I realize now that perfection is nothing more than a measurement..a checklist of pre-defined objectives with my final form already decided for me. I’ll either make it or I won’t. But when we drop this idea of having to check these boxes in everything we do, we can really become something that isn’t defined. We can live a powerful life that leaves behind a trail of help, sincerity, and something for others to grow on. We don’t know what our end looks like, but I believe God does. I believe every time something happens it sets another stone in front of us, good or bad. I am so thankful that God has this beautiful design and he tried things. He believes that I can do something good to this beautiful world he made and I believe part of my purpose is to shed light on the beauty of imperfection. We can’t live a true life and experience all the goodness it brings, all the emotions, the ups and downs and the growth that brings, if we know our end and if we know to perfection what everything means and what everything will look like.
Maybe you feel like you have made too many mistakes to even feel halfway decent about yourself, let alone care about the idea of perfection. If that’s the case, I understand. I have spent some years limiting my life subconsciously because I felt I should punish myself for mistakes I made-for not being perfect. But I encourage you to let that go and realize that whatever mistake(s) you made made you grow. It isn’t a loss and in 10 years you might look back and see just how much that “mistake” developed you. If you feel remorse, that is proof of your growth and you should let yourself free! Take a few minutes and listen to this awesome song from The Oh Hellos. It will help you realize you are not alone in messing up, and that perfection is not a producer, only a result.
The sun it does not cause us, the sun does not cause us to grow.
It is the rain that will strengthen, the rain that will strengthen your soul.
It will make you whole.