I think i was 18, drunk on the gospel. Excited by life and people. I wanted to get more people to know Jesus so i wanted to create a larger belonging. A space in our church building. and why not do that in a gig setting? Why not get a whole bunch of bands to play for a while to make space for people to be in a church for the first time?
So as an 18 year old i knew everything, i was pretty good at everything and anything i didn’t know about i had friends who did. We didn’t need older people, but deep down inside i wanted older people to be involved because they brought a depth, they brought an acceptance – like that time your dad tells you he’s proud of you. So we went ahead, not really knowing if we were being supported by the olds, but just expecting them to be, because we were furthering the gospel. And thats what church is all about right?
So we organized bands, stages, sound equipment, we promoted it quite well, we filled the church with brothers and sisters from interstate and a huge amount of locals who had literally never been in a church before, and of course my band played with our new trombone player.
In my own mind it was a raging success, one to be built on by doing things bigger, better, and more focused. The end I had in mind was a more regular event, that would give more and more young people a place to belong. The ending to this story wasn’t all that squeaky clean.
Throughout my life I, as well as more of my generation (for some reason) have a weird problem with authority. And it crops up in the amazing words of Tracey Jordan “You can’t tell me what to do, your not my Dad” – Absolute rebellion to everything, either because they really aren’t our Dads, or we didn’t have Dads in the first place, so we feel like no one has authority to tell us what to do, we are our own men. We make our own choices. And i would like to write about that one day.
But the most prominent rebellion I’ve seen in my own life is a misappropriated perfectionism. We expect our leaders to have it all good. To be so good at their jobs that they are without blemish. That they will know the right answers at the right time and tell us the right things when we need to hear them and they will always be there for us. This perfectionism sees our mistrust of government, doctors, school teachers, pastors and fathers. Simply because they fail. We have this perfect picture in our mines, almost a hero worship, and when superman reacts out of offended anger, or when he swears at a kid or is caught having sex with someone other then Lois Lane, we tear him a new one. Because perfect people aren’t supposed to fail. Perfect people are supposed to be steadfast, never changing and never failing. Because if they fail – then our own insecurities must be true and we have nothing good to look forward to or grow into.
We have heros because we want to be like them. We follow leaders because we think they are taking us to great places in a perfect way. So when they deviate, it hurts. Because we have fallen in love so deeply in our hearts with the cult of perfection that it breaks our heart when its not true. And like any romance, after your heart breaks a few time it is very slow to start a new intense romance. But after a while, because of the authority structures of humanity we begin falling in love again. Maybe not trusting as much, but we still fall. And when the next leader makes a mistake – we start breeding distrust in our hearts.
Fast forward a few years and you have rebellion thrown on any leader you come into contact with because superman has no legs and is a man whore, so all supermen must be the same. We question every decision, we judge the new ones against the old ones before we even meet because we are living out of offense and defense and to save ourselves more hurt we put huge barriers up. We do all this whilst still clinging to the lie that humans can be perfect and thus lead perfectly.
Throughout my life time this has found me flooded with bitterness, spending three years unsettled in any church I met with. This found me fast tracking to becoming an alcoholic, a thief, a sex addict, a social misfit, a selfish citizen, a horrible employee and a frustrating student who wouldn’t listen.
Its funny that so many of us struggle with the cult of perfection whilst professing to be marked by a perfect man. Our mistrust of leadership will always find away to throw mud on Christs face. Our distrust and disrespect of those that God has put over us is one of the most destructive communal moves we can ever make. Authority exists. We are born into it – not only under God but under parents and governments. We live our lives in the midst of hundreds of authority structures. teachers, pastors, politicians, elders, experts etc etc and if we don’t get the authority thing – life becomes really hard, says the recovering perfectionism cultist.
Theres a part of the bible that says – Honour your father and mother and it will go well for you.
I like that. Parents aren’t perfect. In fact if you talk to my Dad he would tell you different stories to what i would tell you about how good a dad he was. I think he is an incredible Dad, BUT he was and is not perfect. But if i can learn how to love and respect and honour our own blood in what should be the safest relationship we have – it starts good things in how we will respect and honour leaders outside of that structure that also fail. But if we fail to grasp authority structure in even the safest place – life will get hard.
But you the cool thing about this?
We have a perfect leader. If we cling to him and fall deeply in love with him, our hearts will never be broken.
I got out of the cab at five am. It was still dark and I walked through the doors that would change my life and fell into a bunk in a dark room only to wake two hours later to begin a strange adventure. Fast forward half a day and I’m back in that bunk. Wide awake. In a conversation that would improve life.
Hey. We will be room mates for awhile so you need to know who I am so we can help each other.
This hero of mine went on to describe to me how he wasn’t perfect. He needed help and he loved community and Jesus. And then silence. A chance. A moment. A space given to me to be real. To be known.
So I launched in to some stories about my imperfection. I told him things I hadn’t told many if any. And when I was finished we prayed for each other. Committed to fight for each other.
I left the room the next morning different. Because I was free.
I was free of a different cult of perfection. The one that evil uses to pin us to the darkened corners of shame. The voices and the airbrushing that convinces us that everyone else is perfect. So we need to put all our efforts into making ourselves look perfect to everyone else.
Which, in my experience pushes our imperfections deeper into our humanity. Deeper and deeper into our addictions, our insecurity, and it seethes and seethes and then explodes.
This cult of perfection doesn’t end with us exploding either. It’s a chain reaction. As we see perfection in others and attempt to carbon copy, others see our faux perfection and join the cult in response. As imperfection rides the tails of the masks we super glue to our faces it goes unchecked for years. It finds blind spots so we even forget they exist.
When I left that three week period with that honest and vulnerably strong man and friend I left with weapons. Dangerous weapons.
Like make up or gym memberships or alcohol we cover up our imperfections with more imperfections. But if we scrub all the fake away and lay bare who we are. That’s when the eternal doctor, our savour can begin to go to work easier.
I once broke my wrist. But refusing to be X-ray’d I almost lost the use of my hand. If I had got it checked straight away I wouldn’t feel it in my bones every winter seven years later.
The cult of perfection needs to be dealt with now. In me. In you. In everything.
I am not perfect. I fail daily. In my words in my timing in my mind in my relationships in my priorities I continually suck. But Jesus makes me able to fail whilst not being a failure. Imperfect whilst being perfected.
When we let Jesus be our perfection. When allow each other to know ourselves. When we stop allowing the evil ones to push us around.
Get into the light. As he is in the light.
Make it known as he knows you and loves you.
And take the vulnerable step first. Be the leader in being real and imperfect.