My first year of high school was the year I really started to take school seriously. I began to care more about my grades, put more effort into my classes, and develop a genuine hunger for knowledge. In fact, my passion for learning became a bit of an obsession. Reading would take me many more hours than necessary because I felt that I needed to understand all of the content. I would spend most of my day pouring over my school books. You can call me a nerd, but I absolutely loved it. I felt like a dry sponge with a desperate need to soak up as much water as possible.
Today, as I look forward to my very last semester of high school, I appreciate this hunger as well as detest it. My obsession with learning blossomed into an obsession with my own success. I began to set expectations for myself, and would be crushed if I did not meet them. This attitude escalated as I continued to pour myself into my studies. My affinity for learning became a façade for my hidden sin of self-dependence and perfectionism.
My life verse during this time was Colossians 3:23, which says: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (ESV). This verse encourages believers to do everything to the best of our ability to glorify the Lord. Instead of interpreting the verse correctly, though, I idolized the concept of “best.” Was I trying to do everything to the best of my ability? Yes. But I was not doing it for the Lord. I was doing it for myself. Instead of doing the things God had required me to do to the best of my ability, I was trying to be the best at everything. It was my way or the highway, as the saying goes. I became extremely frustrated when others slacked in their responsibilities or performed their tasks half-heartedly. I thought that I was the best.
My perfectionism took over and I became obsessed with success. Because it is impossible to be perfect and completely master everything (duh), I felt like a failure. It was then that some wise words from my mother came to mind. “Miriam,” she once told me when I expressed my deep fear of failure, “Success is simply doing God’s will.” Her advice hit me like a barricade. I didn’t have to be the best. I only had to do the best with what God had entrusted me.
I still love to learn. I still strive to do everything God asks me to do to the best of my ability, without compromising my biggest priorities. And I still struggle with the obsessive perfectionism that penetrated my mindset as a young teen. However, God continually teaches me that my imperfection is the ideal setting for His perfect plan. I stopped striving for my best simply to be the greatest and began doing my best in order to bring glory to the Greatest One of all. If you are a perfectionist, I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that this is the most freeing thing you can do. Christ continually sets me free from the bonds of myself and He can do that for you too.
As I wrap up high school and move into God’s plan for my life, I must constantly remind myself that success is not a 4.0 GPA, dozens of friends, or even godly relationships. Success is doing God’s will—not to be the best, but to give my best to the God Who deserves it.