“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matt. 6:24)
You’ve read this verse. You’ve probably heard a sermon on it or attended a Bible study structured around this theme.
However, so often the second master discussed is money, material goods, or related to addiction or chaste behavior. The master I mistakenly serve is none of the above.
I, like many women I’ve been blessed to encounter, serve the master of perfection. I want to be perfect in my job, in my friendships and romantic relationships, and in my every pursuit. I want to have it altogether, but more importantly, I don’t want to disappoint those around me.
And apparently, I’m not the only one. From Anne Marie Slaughter’s article in The Atlantic, "Why Women Can’t Have It All"; Debora L. Spar’s Glamour article of the same name, and Sheryl Sandberg’s now-famous “Lean In” – clearly women in America today all feel the pressure of serving perfection.
Serving the master of perfection, I fall prey to worshiping the all-consuming idols of insecurity and anxiety – essentially, not placing my trust in the Lord. As my aunt wisely put it once, you need to offer up your struggles to God and not immediately take them back upon yourself when you do so. When we offer it to God, we truly need to let go of our sufferings, imperfections, insecurities, and anxieties.
The result of this pursuit of perfection over pursuit over the Lord is manifestation of a lie that I have often struggled with. The lie that says I am not pretty enough, smart enough, kind or selfless enough. That I am not a good enough employee, boss, hostess, homemaker, mother, friend, daughter, sister, or girlfriend.
And the thing about this is that it is all-consuming. This lie is the product of me choosing to let my anxiety and insecurity reign over the love of the Lord.
As a daughter of God, I am loved beyond belief and I am worthy of dignity by my very existence – no matter what I can or can’t do, or more specifically in my case, what I can or can’t achieve. As a daughter of God, you are loved beyond belief and worthy of dignity – no matter what kind of daughter-in-law, mother, employee, boss, sister, wife, or friend you think you are. You are intrinsically valuable just by being you.
And for some reason most women I know find that hard to accept – me included. I fall victim to these masters over and over again, even though in my head I know better – sometimes it’s hard for my heart to internalize or vice versa. As I celebrated the Feast of the Assumption this year, I’ve thought a lot about how we in our fallen nature try to imitate Mary, the Mother of God. But is it really fair to measure our fallen human natures with that of a woman immaculately conceived and hand chosen by God the Father?
While I know we can’t do better in terms of a virtuous woman after which to model our lives, we need to start our imitation of Mary from a place of self-love. Women, of all ages and vocations, have a unique calling to nurture and love. I recently read an article that said there is a love that comes out of a self-doubt and a love that comes out of a self-love. Love rooted in insecurity isn’t really a love at all, it is placing demands on others for the infinite love and security which only God can truly fulfill. Love rooted in self-love—in self-confidence in one’s own gifts and vocation – is a love that gives, that pours out God’s grace for others. This was the love Mary had for her son, the love we should strive to imitate.
We cannot be an instrument for the Lord, fully answering our vocations, when we are serving the master of perfection, the idols of anxiety and insecurity. These masters empty us of our power to love and nurture those around us and empty of us of our ability to receive love and nurturing from those around us.
In the end, it’s not that I haven’t ever fallen victim to being concerned about money or material goods or other immoderation in such a way that has detracted from my ability to serve the Lord, but more often I struggle with the temptation to give up when the going gets rough. I struggle to remember that in my imperfection I am loved, that I have a purpose, and that I have inherent dignity as a human being and child of God.
Women, in particular, are said to be talented at multitasking, but the flip side of that is trying to do well at so many and varied task. To search for and obsess over a perfection that is not only in congruent with our fallen human nature, but with a perfection that consumes our hearts and minds, preventing them from accepting the love that God has to offer us.
I have always taken heart in the old translation of the Priest’s prayer after the Our Father at Mass: Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy, keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety, as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Though the Priest’s words are now slightly altered, that meaning still resonates with me as I fervently pray that the Lord will help me not to fall victim to worry and anxiety and that I can find the peace and love that I know is in the Lord.
Recently, I have begun saying a daily offering to try to begin every day focused on the Lord – on serving the only true and worthy master by offering Him my day’s prayers, works, joys, sufferings. I still struggle with serving this master of perfectionism, with the idols of insecurity and anxiety. But I push on because in my weakness, He is strong.
Topics: Current Events