Elizabeth Fish

Bologna, Italy

Chasing Perfect

Thinner. I needed to be thinner.

As I calculated the Calories in the lunch I was pretending to eat and planned out my 5-mile run I would go on later that afternoon, my inner perfectionist delighted at the thought of another pound lost.

This lifestyle of starvation and extreme exercise was not going to last−I knew that−but somehow it didn’t matter to me. If I could just get small enough, I believed, then everything would be okay. If I could look enough like the girls on the covers of magazines, the ones called “Beautiful” and “Perfect,” then this void in my heart could finally be filled.

Involved. I needed to be more involved.

As I hurried from one meeting to the next, and picked up an application to join yet another student group at my university, my inner perfectionist delighted at the thought of another item to add to my resume−proof to all the medical schools that I was the girl who really could do it all.

My weekly schedule of a dozen meetings, a full class load and studying left little time for sleep−but somehow this didn’t matter to me. If I could just be accomplished enough, I believed, then my future would be secure. All of the medical schools would see that I was the perfect student, and would accept me, and the void in my heart would finally be filled.

 Loved. I just wanted to be loved.

As I sat in my bunk at the summer camp where I was a counselor, I realized how desperately I wanted to be loved. Love was something I talked about all the time: I could recite the Gospel message to my campers and tell them how much God loved them. I could point to the cross where Jesus died for our sins and say, “See how much Jesus loved you! He died for you!”

And yet, somehow the freedom and joy that other Christians had was missing from my own life. My own perfectionism had overshadowed my understanding of God’s love for me.

I grew up going to church, and believed in God my entire life; but something was still missing. I wanted to be full, to be complete. I had spent my life chasing things I thought would complete me: physical beauty, approval of others, and involvement in university. My inner perfectionist had failed me and I was exhausted.

At camp that summer, when all of this chasing finally caught up to me, I asked God to show me his love… and he did! He showed me that the Gospel was true for me, too. Through reading the Bible, I saw for the first time that because of Jesus’ death on the cross, I was invited to be a part of God’s family. I was fully accepted, just as I was. God didn’t want me to change a single thing about myself.

Since then, I’ve learned that being a part of God’s family means that God has a seat saved for me at his dinner table; it means that my presence is welcomed and wanted. It means that no matter what I look like, no matter what the world thinks of my life, God fully, completely, and unchangeably loves me.  I don’t need to be anything less, or more, or different than what I am right now to receive his love. I can stop chasing “beautiful” and "accomplished" because that’s not what God asks for. There’s no place for my perfectionism at the foot of the cross.  

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