“You know, I’m a perfectionist,” Grandpa commented.
“I know,” I replied.
“You know, you’re one too.” he added.
“I know,” I agreed, laughing at his insight.
But truthfully, as I pondered his comment, the thought bothered me. I’m sure his observation stems from the fact that I expect the kids to do housework a certain way when we’re at Grandpa’s, and I have to correct them when they don’t do it right. After all, order in the midst of chaos is comforting. Not that it’s chaotic here like when we first brought Grandpa home (we were navigating through uncharted territory and we often didn’t have a clue what we were doing), but depending on what Grandpa is going through – attitude or health-wise, and the rest of us for that matter – a clean house can bring a semblance of normalcy to overstressed lives. But perfectionist standards can also cause hard feelings.
I remember the year my mother died. Grandpa took care of her ’round the clock in this very house. Our first child, Claire, was 9-months-old and we would come over to visit mom as she lie sick in bed. One day, I fed Claire a cracker in the kitchen and dad got really mad when she dropped crumbs on his clean floor. That’s how stressed out he was from caring for mom for months-on-end. He hurt my feelings, excruciatingly.
I had my moment in this very same kitchen the other day. I had asked the girls to set the table and when we gathered for dinner, the water glasses were not filled with ice or water, and they were severely mismatched. It was a half-hearted job by a child who was surely thinking of other things. I wasn’t happy. I venture to say my attitude was just as upsetting to my children as my father’s had been with me. How ironic that I would have the opportunity 24 years later to be reminded of what it is like to make perfection the object of my affection, instead of the people I love.
I don’t think being a perfectionist is something to be proud of. I had thought the days of needing to appear as if we have “everything together” were long gone. Or maybe it’s because, I’m visual, but I just want things to be orderly at Grandpa’s.
I’m sure that those who really know me, know I am far from perfect. Thank God, He has knocked me down a few perfectionist notches over the years and even changed my understanding of the word. The Greek meaning for the word perfect is: complete, grown-up, a mature man. That brings a godly perspective to the word, doesn’t it?
James 1 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
I can’t help but think that God is using this situation with Grandpa to perfect Himself in me. Ha! That’s going to take a while.