Before the Corona virus hit hard, I was completely humbled to be a finalist for a spokesperson of the year competition a the mentoring group I’m in. Applicants submitted videos, filled out applications and then four of us were given 5 minutes each to speak live to a conference of 500 artists and industry leaders. The attendees then voted electronically.
When the call to apply initially came out, the achiever in me said, “That would be a good step.” But this group is full of people whose art paths have intersected all three levels of the program while I have camped out in just one area until I got it… or it got me.
My journey of getting healed from the straightjacket of perfectionism happened in the safety of this group and I ached for the opportunity to be “the one who came back” (Luke 17:17) to give God the glory.
But I knew immediately who would win this. She’s a treasured friend and her journey is ahead of mine in the career realm of art. In light of that, I said, “Lord, this is really not my time. Maybe in a couple of years when I get further along in the business side of my art.”
Long story short, three days before the deadline to apply I was praying for our leader and his wife in particular early one morning. “Lord, we need to hear more from her. Every time she’s on the screen, she has something important to say.”
Three hours after that prayer, she was on the screen in a live feed giving a final “last chance to apply before the deadline” call. She looked at the camera and said, “If you’re saying It’s not my time…It’s your time.”
So I made a video standing on my head. Yes, literally. Ask Davis. I kicked him in the face 3 times trying to do a headstand with his help because, um, I can’t do that on my own anymore.
I told how being in this group turned my world upside down. I have been able to get untangled from perfectionism and, unlike my old me, I was happy to submit my video which was slapped together in a last minute raw cut format. And I actually like how it turned out.
Then I received an email saying I was actually one of the finalists!
There was an amazing cash prize on the line. But from the beginning, I didn’t even care about the money. Rich and I had already decided that I could just give it away. I knew I wouldn’t win. And to be really core honest, deep down I knew I wasn’t prepared to do it if I did win. I knew this so deeply, I didn’t want it - not because it wouldn’t be wonderful, because it is a HUGE honor!!! - but because I knew quite certainly that I didn’t want to fail not only myself but my mentor. But I knew why I was there. It was for a side gig.
If I had really wanted to win, I would have worn something really tailored and “Spokesperson-ish” to speak live to my peers and the guest speakers who were all phenomenal. I would have had my speech practiced, polished and timed to the second. I've won my fair share of awards. I knew what it would take.
But I wore my ripped knee jeans with a nice jacket. I was totally me.
I had my speech down to 3 minutes (I think), but then we were given 5 minutes and I took 7.5 according to the video. I didn’t care at the moment. I completely forgot there was a counter as I told how generational perfectionism for me was like being born into a beautiful little baby coat that was meant to be grown out of. But as I grew up it became too tight, like a straightjacket that began to strangle me. But, like Lazarus, God was calling me out. Apparently, there were people in tears. Testimonies do that. They give us hope.
Like most everything else I do these days, God has me do things “sideways.” I can never quite be like everyone else, no matter how hard I try. I can’t unhear His whispers and sometimes it makes me feel odd and left out. I’m pretty sure Jesus’ mother, Mary, might have had a moment or two like that as God’s dream grew in her and became apparent to others. I’m pretty sure Hannah got frustrated with the priest when she was bleeding her heart out in tears at the altar and he thought she was batty.
I knew I was chosen to be there on that stage because Jesus was giving me the desire of my heart, to stand up publicly and creatively story-tell how I got healed from a thought pattern I was born into and never consciously chose to have; perfectionism served in a bucket of shame.
I told a story of a compass Papa God gave me. I’ll save that for a separate story. I’m trying to get to the point. I promise.
But here’s the deal. (I know, I know. There’s always a deal.)
When I was on the elevator headed to the conference room where 500 people would listen to my story and size me up on a scale of spokesperson or not-spokesperson, I felt guilty.
Suddenly, I realized I wanted to win. I didn’t need to win. I didn’t even want to compete. But this was a competition and I wanted to win. I tried not to want to. It felt like the way I tried not to want to be married as I watched my 20’s go by and slipped into my 30’s. I felt I shouldn’t want to be married since it seemed it wasn’t going to happen.
I heard God whisper, “Do you want to win?” I can never lie to God. What’s the point? I mean, seriously…. So I answered, “Yeah, I do. I’m sorry. I know this is for my friend.” Then Father surprised me. He said, “It’s ok to want to win. It’s normal.”
You see, I’ve spent my whole life afraid of being normal. I felt I had to be more than normal. I had to be perfect.
I was being tested in the very thing I was celebrating, freedom from perfectionism and shame-based thinking. And I’m not gonna lie, it was confusing.
I wanted to be seen as polished, sophisticated, top of the line talented, ready for the “Big Thing,” but God was asking me to be RAW. Real And Whole.
And what I was totally unprepared for was the voting fallout thing. My spiritual gift is discernment, so I picked up on the people who were so uncomfortable with me after the vote. Some felt sorry for me and avoided eye contact with me after the vote because they voted otherwise. Some felt the need to comfort me or give me some advice because I made them cry. Yet, I was blessed by people who came up and said, “I voted for you.” But a lot of those votes were not so much because they thought I’d be a great spokesperson, but because they shared my story…. They were on the same recovery path as me. I treasure those votes. And that was humbling and amazing.
The next morning, when the winner was announced, I said my friend’s name in unison with the host. I really don’t know why I knew it was hers before I even knew if she was even applying. I just did. I could have easily voted for the other two. They were completely amazing! It was simply just something that was meant for my friend.
Within the consolations, I realized anything I said sounded like me trying to be strong. Or it sounded like me trying to cover my disappointment. Hindsight teaches me that the next time I’m defeated, and I’m sure there will be a next time, I need to simply just express thanks for their concern and shut my mouth.
The awkward thing is, I felt defeated by more the just the vote. And even though I probably cheered more loudly than anyone in the room when my friend won, I was unprepared for the aftermath going on in my spirit.
By dinnertime, I was worn out from fighting it. I confessed to my son and husband, “Guys, I’m struggling. No part of her winning was a disappointment to me. She’s the one I would have picked. I’m just feeling sticky and slimed, though. I’m struggling with the pattern of my life. Coming in second. I’m feeling the sting of “not chosen” and I hate it. It scratched old wounds. I hate that it changes how people treat you and how it opens doors to some people who want to swoop in as your authority and tell you how to lose well. I need you guys to really pray for me in this.”
You see, perfectionism got beaten, but when evil things get cast out, they get homesick and try to move back in with a vengeance. Perfectionism says, “You should.” It says, “It’s either this (black) or that (white.)”
I felt like I had to be either completely happy for my friend or completely disappointed.
But that’s just not truth.
The truth is this. Hope is magnetic.
When it’s placed in front of us, we want it. I had a chance of winning. It woke up some form of hope. There was a possibility! Of course, I hoped for it. Anyone would.
But to feel disappointed in “losing” and still happy for my friend – these are both ok. Both really human. I can feel both at the same time.
(Please don’t send me emails and say “You didn’t lose, you just ____,” because I’ve already done that in the mirror. Renaming something to justify your feelings only makes it take longer to process it.)
The point is, when I got up on that stage and gave God his due glory, the enemy took a blow. And it’s totally predictable that he would try to punch back. Why are we always surprised?
And here’s my joyful lesson. We go into things SO prayed up. So ready. So covered. Why do we think that the praying’s done once the event is over? THAT’s got to be covered too! It’s got to be debriefed with Jesus and surrendered just as much. Even if I had won, I’m pretty sure I’d get attacked with pride, doubt and the reactions of others. There’s an awkward admiration mixed with distance that can come with winning. That’s not fun either.
The key, I think, is thankfulness. When I begin to thank my Papa God for the whole experience, even the revealing of my mixed emotions and my desperate need for Him in my disappointment, I realize I can crawl up in His lap and say, “This is icky and I got slimed. Daddy, can you get this off?” And He smiles and says, “Yes, of course.”
photo credits with thanks: Melissa Smith
©2020 Lydia D Crouch