Sometimes I find my mind won’t let go of a particular conversation. It keeps replaying in my head ad nauseum.
It was nearly six months ago. We had just met some folks and I so badly wanted to make a good first impression. I kept thinking ahead of time what I might say that would be kind, courteous, friendly, etc…the perfect words that would not be weird or awkward or otherwise scare off our potential new friends. But when the time came, I said something that didn’t come out the way I intended. And while I don’t think it really was a make-or-break kind of comment, it did make the situation a bit awkward, and in the aftermath I have thought numerous times how stupid of a comment it was and how I really goofed up the whole evening.
Being a perfectionist is hard sometimes, especially when you’re a perfectionist who loves language and precision but who fumbles so badly in real-life conversation (or at least I think I’ve bumbled badly…then again, that could just be the perfectionist in me talking).
So for some reason all of this resurfaced this morning, forcing me to eat my words yet again and relive the perceived shame and embarrassment of that moment. I sat on the couch wondering what hope there was for such a mess like me. One scripture came to mind: “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.” (Psalm 42:11) Yes, that was helpful. Hope in God. It’s the refrain I’ve been studying and which the Lord has been using to renew my heart in so many ways lately.
Yes. My words miss the mark. But God’s don’t. Hope in God.
Still, the weight was heavy.
After a few more moments of replayed conversation and renewed guilt, I remembered the words of the apostle James in the third chapter of his epistle: “For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.” (James 3:2) What a comfort that even amidst all of James’ rather strong exhortation to use our tongues wisely, comes this statement of reality: we all stumble when we speak.
If I sin I know I have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus the Son of God who died for me and now intercedes on my behalf. But sometimes I’m weighted down not with a particular sin but with yet another haunting failure to live up to my own expectations, and my own expectations can be a harsh taskmaster. Even so, God’s word has hope for me. Even putting sin aside, I am not perfect, not so suave and eloquent as I’d like to be, not so in control…but my Heavenly Father is.
“Why are you in despair, O my soul? …Hope in God!”
“We all stumble in many ways.”
It seems that at times God is much more understanding of my less-than-perfect condition than I am: “For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” (Psalm 103:14)
My perfectionistic pride and imperfect performance may fling me down into despair, but God’s mercies are new every morning, and His grace lifts me up to new heights of love in His arms. And so my heart, troubled as it may sometimes be, can find rest and reassurance in the presence of my Savior. My words fall flat all the time. Only He has the perfect words—the words of life that speak truth, hope, and peace.