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Honest To Blog: Perfection

"Some of us expect perfection of ourselves instead of seeking to be perfected in Christ."*

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This post itself is the lesson that I want to share. It's been in progress for well over 2 weeks now. Finally it has come time to just post it and move on in life. I can't seem to get the words out right because I want them to be perfect. I think that's the newest swear word in my book. First it was busy and now it is perfect.

I never considered myself a perfectionist. Anyone in our community would tell you that was my sister. She was the organized one. She took the AP classes. She got the straight A's. Chelsea was the perfectionist. Elle was the semi-organized chaos, the easily distracted, and the pile of unfinished projects.

How did that version of me turn into such a control freak? As I look at my life in chunks [childhood] [high school] [college] [whatever happened next] [mission] I can see growth that has happened in each section. Even though I see changes it doesn't seem like enough. I find myself thinking "I've come so far why does it seem like there is twice as much ground ahead??"

Sometimes I feel like I'll never be good enough or measure up to being worth Christ's grace. How wrong am I? Very wrong.

I find myself in the awkward situation of a young woman mentioned in a talk given by Brad Wilcox at BYU. She also found herself lacking understanding about the Grace of God. Take a semi-break from my ramblings to read her experience:

A BYU student once came to me and asked if we could talk. I said, “Of course. How can I help you?”

She said, “I just don’t get grace.”

I responded, “What is it that you don’t understand?”

She said, “I know I need to do my best and then Jesus does the rest, but I can’t even do my best.”
She then went on to tell me all the things she should be doing because she’s a Mormon that she wasn’t doing.

She continued, “I know that I have to do my part and then Jesus makes up the difference and fills the gap that stands between my part and perfection. But who fills the gap that stands between where I am now and my part?”

She then went on to tell me all the things that she shouldn’t be doing because she’s a Mormon, but she was doing them anyway.

Finally I said,“Jesus doesn’t make up the difference. Jesus makes all the difference. Grace is not about filling gaps. It is about filling us.”

Seeing that she was still confused, I took a piece of paper and drew two dots—one at the top representing God and one at the bottom representing us. I then said, “Go ahead. Draw the line. How much is our part? How much is Christ’s part?”

She went right to the center of the page and began to draw a line. Then, considering what we had been speaking about, she went to the bottom of the page and drew a line just above the bottom dot.

I said, “Wrong.”

She said, “I knew it was higher. I should have just drawn it, because I knew it.”

I said, “No. The truth is, there is no line. Jesus filled the whole space. He paid our debt in full. He didn’t pay it all except for a few coins. He paid it all. It is finished.”

She said, “Right! Like I don’t have to do anything?”

“Oh no,” I said, “you have plenty to do, but it is not to fill that gap. We will all be resurrected. We will all go back to God’s presence. What is left to be determined by our obedience is what kind of body we plan on being resurrected with and how comfortable we plan to be in God’s presence and how long we plan to stay there.”

Christ asks us to show faith in Him, repent, make and keep covenants, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. By complying, we are not paying the demands of justice—not even the smallest part. Instead, we are showing appreciation for what Jesus Christ did by using it to live a life like His. Justice requires immediate perfection or a punishment when we fall short. Because Jesus took that punishment, He can offer us the chance for ultimate perfection (see Matthew 5:48, 3 Nephi 12:48) and help us reach that goal. He can forgive what justice never could, and He can turn to us now with His own set of requirements (see 3 Nephi 28:35).

“So what’s the difference?” the girl asked. “Whether our efforts are required by justice or by Jesus, they are still required.”

“True,” I said, “but they are required for a different purpose. Fulfilling Christ’s requirements is like paying a mortgage instead of rent or like making deposits in a savings account instead of paying off debt. You still have to hand it over every month, but it is for a totally different reason.”

Ok. Here I am. Girl with the line. Thinking I'll never be able to measure up. That's a warning flag right there that in those moments I do not understand the Atonement of Christ. President Boyd K. Packer counseled the youth in January about the importance of understanding Christ's Atonement.

"Life turns out to be a succession of trials and errors. Add 'repent often' to your list of things to do. This will bring you lasting peace that cannot be purchased at any earthly price. Understanding the Atonement may be the one most important truth that you can learn in your youth." -Boyd K. Packer

Its going to take us all of our lives. Not a single one of us can really truly grasp the measure of love, sacrifice, and mercy that Christ gives to us. But what we can do is try. We can learn a little more every day. My perfection comes THROUGH Him and I will be "perfected in Christ" rather than perfected through my own works.

What do you do to apply the Savior's teaching to be perfected in Him?

4 sweet messages:

Kristin said...

Really really good post Elle. I loved it. I'm not sure I really understood grace and perfection either.

Carin said...

Beautiful Elle! You are growing...in more ways than you can see or imagine. You are amazing and the Savior loves you for your effort and what is in your heart...and just because you are you. So keep trying, each and every day. Keep your head up. Keep working. And trust that the Savior will do His part too, because He always will. So very glad we don't have to make up that gap! Love you!

Sarah Escobar said...

Thats was great i love that talk!

:cassia marie: said...

i think that's an important thing to remember: it is going to take the ENTIRE amount of time i am here to become perfect ... and even then there is still a gap that Christ will have to fill before i really am!

i felt like i had a pretty good grasp of where i needed to go and what i needed to improve when i left byu. i had my degree, i had studied the scriptures (obviously it's a life-long thing, but still)... i had figured "ok, i'm doing good..." and then i had aaron. and now every day i find myself thinking "wow, i could have handled THAT better!!" i'm so grateful for the atonement and the opportunity to try again, because i fall short so often. but the important thing is that i'm really trying. i'm not only trying to teach my son the right way, i'm trying to teach by example. and that means he'll see my imperfections, frequently. but i hope he also sees that i am trying, and that i rely on the Lord 24/7!! in the end, it's just as dory said: "just keep swimming, just keep swimming!" you have to keep going to get to the end!