A Time to Bloom

Freda Howell McMahon   |   August 16, 2016 


Not too long ago, we finally had a family move into the flat across us. After a few days of settling in, they lined their balcony with a number of different plants. The row began with a tall plant crowned by beautiful little yellow flowers. Next came orange flowers, with long petals, resembling a fancy floppy hat, followed by other green plants. Shortly, however, our neighbours had to travel, leaving behind the plants to fend for themselves. Within a matter of days, each plant withered. It was the right season for these plants to grow and flower, but here they lay dead because they were not getting what they needed. The time was right, but the care absent.

One morning, as I glanced at the gloomy and lifeless flowers, I felt an unexpected affinity towards them. On more days than I’d like to admit, I'd been feeling a lot like those plants; utterly exhausted, grouchy, and barely in control of the day's demands. But I was trying to push on, trying my best to make my house look presentable, failing; trying to throw a Pinterest worthy first birthday party for my daughter, succeeding, and then wondering if it was worth it at all.

I was neglecting things truly important to me; my physical, emotional, and spiritual health. I explained away my tiredness and my failure to be on top of things as a natural part of being a new mom. But as I saw those withered plants, I felt God telling me, "Freda, you can bloom right now. It's not the wrong season. You're just not taking care of yourself." The message made me uncomfortable. Change, even when for our good, is unsettling. I asked God what I needed to change. Here's what I got: Give up perfectionism.

I am a perfectionist. During my school years I realised that teachers (not all), generally, have favourites from two categories - either the ones excelling in studies or the very good looking students. By the time I was in grade eleven, I was studying subjects I liked, and my grades reflected my increased interest. It was clearly visible that teachers were also increasingly noticing me. I went on to lose weight and suddenly the opposite sex was also more interested in me. I liked the attention, but it bothered me because I was the same person inside. The ball of perfectionism was set in motion. The message was clear: people like you when you're perfect.

Perfectionism placed an unnatural amount of pressure on me. I made up excuses to get out of writing a couple of exams because I did not want to disappoint the teacher who had her hopes pinned on my outstanding success. But, I am not the only one who crumbles under perfectionism. If you observe nature, you will notice that flowers bloom gradually. You can notice when a bud appears, when it opens a wee bit, right up until it's in full bloom. Applied to trees, perfectionism would mean that a little sapling insists on being a large oak within a week or die trying. Despite its best efforts, the little sapling is headed for disappointment. Though if it just relaxed and trusted the process God set in place, it would one day grow into a mighty oak.

Perfectionism, at its root, is a coping mechanism. If I feel ‘not good enough’, I will try to be better in order to gain people’s approval. Perfectionism robs us of the joy of living, of relishing moments flying by, and prevents us from truly accepting self and others. After all, if I can’t accept myself the way I am, how will I accept you? But we don't have to live this  way. The moment we choose to break loose from the shackles of perfection, we experience the freedom we crave. And in God, our Creator, we find One who is perfectly able to mould us into our best design for His glory (Eph. 1:3-6).

God, unlike the people we try to please, does not wait for us to get our act together before lavishing us with love; it’s continuously poured over us in abundance (1 John 3:1). As we journey with God, He transforms us into the likeness of His Son and our life reflects the fruit of the Holy Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (2 Cor. 3:18, Gal. 5:22). We abound with joy irrespective of the circumstances in which we find ourselves; what a glorious state of being!

Just yesterday we had invited guests over for dinner. As soon as the food was ready, my brother-in-law called everyone to dig in. But the table was not yet laid out to my liking! The spaghetti was still resting in a colander on top of the big dish in which it had been boiled; horror! But, instead of shooing away the people, I let them serve themselves from the imperfect table. And we all had a perfectly dandy time.

I am new in this journey of letting go of perfectionism. I am moving towards embracing myself and life the way it is, as I begin to further embrace God for who He is. And so, yes God, I am willing to drop off my obsession with perfectionism. I no longer want to wither under pressure and fear. I am up for re-investing my time in projects which have long been neglected due to fear of failing. I am ready to grow!

What is keeping you from growth in your current season of life? Are you ready for the unsettling yet rewarding process of change? Let’s journey together in living the life God created for us; A life marked with love and no fear!


Photo Credit : Flickr

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Freda Howell McMahon

Freda McMahon lives in a little Goan village with her husband and two daughters. She is a counsellor by profession, a homeschooling mom, and in constant need of God’s grace. Dark chocolate with sea salt, good conversation and solitude are a few of her favourites.

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