“Love suffers long, having patience with imperfect people.”*

When I was a young mom, I wanted to have the perfect family. As you can imagine, this put a lot of pressure on my husband and children to try and live up to my expectations. Mind you, I had it on good authority from all the books I read (before there were blogs), the tapes I listened to (before there were iPods), and the conventions I attended (before there were online conferences), what that perfect family looked like. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make my family measure up. Instead, we sort of looked like the Banks family in the movie Mary Poppins.

Remember when Mary Poppins pulls out her magical measuring tape and sums up the Banks’ young breed? Michael is found to be extremely stubborn and suspicious, and Jane is rather inclined to giggle and doesn’t put things away. The children are embarrassed by her frank observations. And then, Mary Poppins measures herself. Why, she’s practically perfect in every way! I’m not surprised, are you?

In those days, I exhibited many of Mary Poppin’s perfectionistic traits (but my family knew I was far from perfect). I’m sure they thought it unfair that I was the one doing the measuring! But then the Lord began to use them to show me just how “imperfect” I was.  Suddenly, I became a student in the school of forgiveness and an expert at making apologies.

How misguided I was to think I could be the Holy Spirit, hoping to push my family up the slippery slope of sainthood. I did have a great role to play in their growth, but apparently I was a little slow in scaling the ascent myself. I wasn’t nearly as patient with my family as the Lord was being with me. I had a lot to learn about love.

“Love suffers long, having patience with imperfect people.”

The Greek word for long suffering is makrothumia (mak-roth-oo-mee’-ah) which means to be long spirited, forbearing (indulgence towards those who injure us; delay of resentment or punishment). The definition of resentment is: The excitement of passion which proceeds from a sense of wrong offered to ourselves, or to those who are connected with us; anger. This word usually expresses less excitement than anger, though it is often synonymous with it. In this use, resentment is not the sense or perception of injury, but the excitement which is the effect of it. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary asks, “Can heavenly minds such high resentment show?”

Look out children, Mary Poppins is not happy!

More than not, impatience, resentment and anger were my first reactions to bad attitudes and family squabbles. I (Mary Poppins) did not handle conflict well! An inner voice kept telling me, They’re not measuring up! They’re not measuring up!  Well the truth is, I was the one who wasn’t measuring up, and it took me many years to realize that I needed to change.

And this is what I really want us to meditate on, ladies. If you’ve ever heard that judgmental voice in your head or struggled with a critical perfectionistic spirit, there are some important questions I would like you to ask yourself. How do you handle your family’s imperfections? Are you patient and long-suffering toward them or do their flaws bring out the worst in you? Scripture says, “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:2 (NASB) I would rather err on the side of God’s grace and mercy, wouldn’t you?

Personally, I need all the grace and mercy I can get. But more than what I need, my children need me to parent them the way the Lord does. He doesn’t embarrass  or humiliate. He’s gentle, loving and kind.

Just think: Where would we be without the Lord’s unconditional love? He’s not surprised by our mishaps, mess-ups, and miserable attempts at living a godly life. He’s knows that sanctification is a process. And the funny thing is, the very imperfections and failures we cringe at are His greatest catalysts for perfecting and making us whole in Him. We need to see our family’s imperfections in the same light and pray for God’s wisdom in handling them. After all, it is the Lord’s kindness that leads us to repentance. “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” Romans 2:4 (NASB)

The good news is: the ground is level at the foot of the cross! We can choose to love fully in the face of imperfection, just as we are fully loved. “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8 (NASB)

God isn’t interested in any of us looking perfect, but He does say to be perfect as He is perfect. There’s a difference. To have Christ formed in us more and more, to be maturing in the Lord, to be complete and whole in Him, – this is the perfection the Bible speaks of and this is the perfection I want for my husband, my children, and myself. “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48 (NASB)

Now, that’s the perfection worth striving for!


* (commentary on 1 Corinthians 13 from The Spirit Filled Bible, NKJV)

Jill Novak

Jill Novak and her husband Robert have been married 37 years and are the parents of five precious children: Claire (30), Eric (25), Elizabeth (20), Anna (17), and Nicholas, their fourth child who was born in 1998 with the genetic syndrome Trisomy 13. Because of the powerful impact of his short life, Jill began to record God's faithfulness to their family in a journal, an act which eventfully led her to begin a family publishing company named Remembrance Press, publishers of a variety of art and writing products, as well as well as products for heart and home: The Girlhood Home Companion and The Mother~Daughter Tea Cozy Club. Visit Jill's website at: www.remembrancepress.com Visit Jill's personal blog Through the Windowpane at www.jillnovak.com

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Jacqueline @ Deeprootsathome.com March 1, 2012

Whoa! Jill, that describes me to a tee…until I realized that it was excellence in Christ I was striving for, not perfection in others and my eyes (our idea is always skewed). Wonderful and excellent post! I love the two very contrasting images of Mary Poppins 🙂

Jill Novak March 2, 2012

Yes, Jacqueline…Mary Poppins has two sides doesn’t she. Ouch! How much lighter the load when we give this burden of raising our family to the Lord instead of trying to follow so many voices. It is crucial to let the Word of God transform our hearts and minds so that we can be a conduit of His grace. I’m so glad His ways are not our ways! As Mrs Banks says in the movie…”I would have made a muddle of it! I have muddled this parenting thing in the past, but He has given me four incredible children who love me despite my many flaws. He knows the longing of our hearts. It is His longing too. Praise God!

Nicole from Faithinsmallthings March 2, 2012

Beautifully written! I struggle with anger and frustration when things do not run like a well oiled machine at home! Thank you for the reminder to strive towards Gods grace and mercy…I will put that to work today!

Jill Novak March 2, 2012

Dear Nicole, I love Isaiah 54:13 says, “And all your children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of your children.” I cling to that verse! It takes all the pressure off to think that I have to be perfect mom everyday, every hour, and every minute for my kids to turn out alright. If we just step aside a little (sometimes a lot), it is amazing what the Lord can do. Have a wonderful day in the Lord!

Amber Fuller March 2, 2012

Enjoyed reading this. It hit home with me, especially when I was a younger Christian. Thanks for sharing. I found the link on a friends FB page.

Stephanie March 2, 2012

Exactly what I needed to hear! Thank you!

Kendra Fletcher March 2, 2012

Yes, yes, and yes. Pouring grace out over our lives the past couple of years, the Lord has breathed new and beautiful life into our family. That’s something my perfectionism and unrealistic expectations could never have accomplished. What mercy God has for us imperfect perfectionists!

Jill Novak March 2, 2012

Oh, Kendra, I love how you said that – “the Lord has breathed new and beautiful life into our family.” Thank you for sharing!

Jamie (@va_grown) March 2, 2012

Great thoughts. It’s a hopeless battle to fuss with your family about being something they’re not ever going to be. Often I start out thinking I see problems, and end up praying and praying and eventually seeing strength and opportunities from each of my family members that I didn’t see before. It’s about seeing them with GOD’s eyes, not my own.

Jill Novak March 2, 2012

Yes, Jamie, prayer makes all the difference. God is so faithful. We don’t even know what He is going to do – can’t imagine. I love how He takes all the longings of their hearts and the circumstances he allows our family to experience and weaves them into a beautiful tapestry. I love what you said, “seeing them with God’s eyes. ” Yes, and amen!

Veralynne March 17, 2012

Ok, so I am not the only one who wants my family to be perfect…boy do I have some work to do. Good thing God isn’t finished with me yet!

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