Tag Archives: perfectionism

OverwhelmSo much has happened! In the blur, I have not written much while school was in session. If anyone wants to recover from perfectionism, just go to Nursing School!

This last session was a snarling grizzly bear from which I only narrowly escaped by the grace of God. I am reminded that while God said, “Become a nurse,” He didn’t call me to get straight As or maintain my place on the President’s List. It’s a good thing! After failing three of the six written tests of the past seven weeks, I will scrape by with what I calculate to be the lowest passing grade plus two and a fraction points. God is capitalizing even the scary moments of overwhelm to His glory, and refining my  character by and in the process. He reminded me that He, and He alone, can only be as consistent as perfection, and that my part is to get out of my own way and lean into trust. Every obstacle ends with His sovereignty - every one!

“Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.” Psalms 131:2 NLT

Let me share some highlights of my recent clinical rotations that I found affirming. Those I served were highly complimentary, many remarking that I was the most caring healthcare worker they had ever met. I silently hoped no one told them how new I was, and I met each instance with the prayer that I would always maintain the focus to make each person I deal with the most important thing to me at that moment. In the operating room from behind a surgical mask, I learned the power of touch and the communication of the eyes, as I watched sheer terror on the face of an 80 year-old man melt away with just a smile, a reassuring word, and a hand held. Rather than just observing, I made myself a part of the surgical team that day, and each member expressed what I believe was genuine regret at seeing me go and commended my compassionate fitness for Nursing. My medical-surgical patients bonded with me, and often saw me as their point of contact, even though I was shadowing a supervising nurse at all times. It was a strange and wonderful feeling when, even in a room full of more qualified healthcare professionals, a patient sought me for support and comfort while the others addressed her care. I was permitted to pray with some patients, and readily capitalized the opportunity. A nursing assistant who observed my work on the medical-surgical block asked me if I was also a missionary, then said the reason for her question was, “You just seem like someone who would be a missionary.” I can’t tell you what a pat on the shoulder from Holy Father that was!

Mental Health ChecklistWith all the struggling in the classroom and the affirmation of the clinical practice, the biggest changes over the last seven week session have actually been in my personal growth. God is teaching me how better to pray: to take the dominion He gave Adam (Mankind), combine it with the authority of Jesus’ name, and call for God’s will on Earth as it is in Heaven. I am called to wrangle with this world, not dangle in it. Furthermore, I am reminded that I cannot expect to treat everyone as the most important thing to me in their moment without treating my precious bride with the same priority at least daily. So much gets brushed aside in preference of the business at hand, what is important gets neglected. I need to make the priority of marital unity an intentional part of my day. Last, and perhaps most altering, is the recognition that the sinister voice in my head that tells me I’m not good enough or I won’t measure up, is a mental foothold of Satan that has no business in the mind of a blood-bought child of God. Man’s dominion of Earth begins in the individual mind.

I am called to wrangle with this world, not dangle in it.

And so, I close with this prayer I prayed for a hurting sister recently. It stirred my spirit so much, I wept over it and her; and as I reread it discovered it was exactly what I would pray for myself or any of my siblings in Heaven’s family, including you just now:

May the Master of the universe calm your storms. May you see past your wind and waves, to visualize His face guiding your path. May the water at your ankles serve to remind you that the Creator of their molecules also ordered yours to have dominion over this dark world; that you are highly esteemed by Him, betrothed to be delivered from the veil that now obscures your true reality: you are vibrantly alive in a world dusty with the ashes of death - you are destined for a royalty that will never tarnish, corrode, or decay. May the sufferings of this dirt world remind you that you have died to it and are merely preparing to be at home in holiness. May every moment of pain be capitalized as motivation for compassion when, in future moments, you discover another weary soul feebly crossing through their shadowy valleys of fear, anxiety, and despair. May your kindness and gentleness be evidences of God's grace working through you, for His purposes and by His providence. May you live to see this dark day as one in which you turned another revolution of renewal. As seasons ring the pulp of a tree, so may your experiences leave their mark on your spiritual growth. May God grant you, now and always, knowledge of His will for you, resource to carry it out, and faith to see His hand at work for His purposes in Christ Jesus our Redeemer-King, amen!

This semester is drawing to a close. With only two days left, I am relieved and amazed at what God can do when we just put Him in charge and follow His lead. I had a choice this past weekend: worry, fret, isolate, disappoint others, and cram for the cumulative final exam in Anatomy and Physiology or trust in God to refresh and recall all that I spent a semester learning. Harried holiday schedules have begun to collide and crowd out any extra time even this retiree might have. I even battled the temptation to break a commitment to sing in our church choir’s annual Christmas presentation to make time to study. As I deliberated I was given this peaceful thought which pervaded both concerns and my entire weekend experience:

The time for Martha-type preparations is over and the time for resting at the feet of Jesus in the Mary way has come. (Luke 10)

As I shared that little tidbit of peaceful reassurance, it progressively became more real to me. My spirit calmed. My thoughts slowed. My worries dissipated. On the eve of the great and fearsome exam, instead of cramming, I went to the concert. As the sound and light engineers, logistics managers, and many of the choir scurried around with last minute preparations, I stood in peaceful surrender, prayerfully accepting things as they were and offering the outcomes to God. My expectations adjusted. My perfectionist nature was whittled back to accept excellent, or even good, if that was to be the product of our service.

photo credit: Ansley Ward
photo credit: Ansley Ward

The performance wasn’t perfect. I didn’t come in on every cue, remember every line, or hit every note, but my spirit was at the feet of Jesus instead of on a stage, and I thought it was a beautiful worship experience. The next day was no different. I went to school, breathed deeply, conceded to accept whatever excellence God helped me attain, and discarded all expectation of perfection. With that air of calm I approached my study buddies and prayed with them before the test, first one, then another, each happy and grateful to join me in prayer. As the exam began, I recommitted myself to sacrifice worry as an act of worship, and recalled my diligent effort and submission to do the necessary work as further acts of worship, with the results being wholly God’s. Then, just like they always do, the walls came tumbling down! The fearful monster that had been the dread of all us A&P students was pacified by God. Though I was walking in its den, its mouth was clamped shut. There were moments when I heard its gravely growl and thought I caught a glimpse of its teeth, but its bite was divinely constrained. I stroked the now domesticated beast, finished my dance with it in about half the time allotted, and presented it to my professor with all the confidence of any I had taken before it.

The exam grades obviously haven’t posted yet, but I am confident and, having given the results to God, am completely secure that His will, which far exceeds my own, will be done. I am left with this constructive thought for the future:

A perfectionist is never content. I can strive for perfection only as long as I am content with excellence. God gives the purpose and the provision. My part is to accept His motivation and take appropriate action steps as my act of worship. The results are the Lord’s.

“Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6)