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Progress, Not Perfection

I have a goal. It is to do one regulation push-up.  One.

I was inspired to this goal by Olivia Perez-Breland who posted one day on Facebook that she’d accomplished the feat without actually meaning to.  She was in the gym doing modified push-ups, when she noticed how easy it had become for her.  So after ten or so, she decided to try a regulation push-up and sure enough, she could do it.  In fact, she did several.

I thought, well … if she can, I can.  Never mind the fact that she’s 20 years younger than me; let’s do this!  I started focusing on modified push-ups and made them part of my daily work-out.  I kept it up, and over time I noticed I could do more than when I first started.  It was getting easier.  I made it a goal to be able to do one regulation push-up by the end of the year, and I have been working at that goal for months.   

Because I am writing a message this week on the habits of joyful people — one of which is an ability to focus on progress not perfection — I wanted so badly to make one push-up happen before Sunday.  I wanted to be able to end my message by showing my people how a focus on progress (not perfection) yields results.  I wanted to be able to tell this story, of working toward something for months, then end with the remarkable news that I’d met my goal.  “See!  I did it!  The repetition of a discipline yields results!”  

And then, I even fantasized about dropping and giving them one.

All for Jesus, of course.

It didn’t happen.  I am still not physically capable of even one regulation push-up.  After months of trying — not even one!  In fact, I’ve now revised my goal from doing one push-up by the end of the year to doing one push-up before I die.  

It won’t happen by Sunday, but what I can do today is fifteen more modified push-ups than I could do three months ago.  Which means that even if I’m not where I want to be, at least I’m not where I was.  Which is the point.

Progress, not perfection. 

What places in your spiritual life could you point to and say, “I’m not where I want to be, but at least I’m not where I was”?  And what disciplines are helping you get there?  In what places are you frustrating yourself by focusing more on perfection than on simply making progress? How would a shift toward making progress help you better understand and embrace the concept of grace?

Carolyn Moore

I follow Jesus.

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Holiness is at least this: a design of life that exposes us most fully to the heart of a good, loving and creative God.