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I am a recovering devotion perfectionist

Kayleigh writing
Posted July 17, 2019

Salvationist Kayleigh Owens shares her insight on leaving the 'perfect' devotion behind, and allowing Jesus to continue the work towards perfection.

People who work with me know I can be a bit of a perfectionist.

A month or so ago, I was delegated to do a devotion for our team. So I spent that month procrastinating, writing. un-writing and re-writing my words for the morning. I changed my idea half a dozen times and finished writing this (what you're reading now!) the night before. 

Re-writing the perfect devotion

The last time my team leader asked me to use my devotion skills, I had at least half a dozen people tweak my devotion to try make it as perfect as possible before presenting it! I just love doing things right and by the rulebook... even if it causes me loads of frustration and needless stress.

This time round, a friend challenged me on my ways of doing things. She saw how I was getting so frustrated with something that just wasn’t working, because I needed it to be perfect. She asked me why I had to do it this way - the way I felt it needed it to be done.

My response? Because that's just how I do it.

She actually laughed at me!

Trying something new

'Officers should try three new things a week. One of them might work.' - Catherine Booth

My friend replied, 'Imagine if Catherine Booth didn’t insist that women could preach? Imagine if, because men had always been seen as the superior, [she accepted that] that's just how it’s meant to be?'.

She told me to Google some Catherine Booth quotes. I think she was joking, but I did it! I found this quote: 'Officers should try three new things a week. One of them might work.'

It isn't an encouragement to just do things we know we can do perfectly, but it's an invitation to try - and possibly fail - for the purpose of learning and growing from it. 

Learn from me

'Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.' - Matthew 5:48 (NIV)

I've used this verse in Matthew to reinforce my perfectionist ways in the past, telling myself they're okay. But as I spent hours working on this devotion and trying to convince myself I could continue as I was, I realised something. 

When Jesus said 'Be perfect' he wasn't pressuring us into perfectionism.

He was actually teaching us to learn from him how to keep growing towards being perfected.

In order to create change and better our communities' future, we need to be able to take some risks. We need to give up doing things perfectly, and give ourselves and others permission to get things wrong as we try doing things differently.

I realised when Jesus said 'Be perfect', he wasn't pressuring us into perfectionism. He was actually teaching us to learn from him how to keep growing towards being perfected.

I want to leave you with some words from our founding lady, Catherine Booth: 'If we are to better the future we must disturb the present.'

Kayleigh Owens is a Salvationist who works for The Salvation Army New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa as the Executive Assistant to the Territorial Director for Community Ministries and Principal Advisor for Social Programme.