Life Under Construction: Pursuing Authenticity Over Perfection

Life Under Construction: Pursuing Authenticity Over Perfection | We shouldn't wait until we have everything figured out to starting letting people into our lives.

The parking garage next door to my church is currently being bulldozed, so on my way to mass this morning, I walked by a fenced off pile of rubble with a sign reading DEMOLITION AREA: DO NOT ENTER. At first I thought nothing of it; Indiana roads have undergone so much construction over the past year that you routinely have to take a detour to get to your detour. People joke that the government is going to have to change the state flower to an orange construction cone. So at first glance, the sign seemed like nothing remarkable. But as I re-read the words, it hit me that the phrase DEMOLITION AREA: DO NOT ENTER captured, with uncanny accuracy, my general approach to life.

Even though I know that all of us are constantly growing and changing–we’re people “under construction,” if you will–for as long as I can remember, I’ve acted as though someday the work will be complete and then my life can really begin. In the meantime, though, I have to be careful not to let anyone witness the mess or trip over the rubble. Don’t stop by and visit until I’ve had time to clean my apartment from top to bottom! Don’t snap a photo or even look at me until I’ve had a chance to put on makeup and style my hair! Don’t ask for my opinion until I’ve done all my background research and composed an intelligent, nuanced response! And don’t get to know me until I’ve fixed all my brokenness and smoothed out all my rough edges, because right now my life is an occupational hazard, and one (or both) of us might get hurt if you get too close. It’s best for all of us if you just keep your distance.

Or so I thought. It turns out that (spoiler alert) this is an exhausting and unfulfilling way to live. Sure, maybe a few people will fall for the act and think you have everything together and possibly even admire you for your perceived ability to “do it all,” but in the end, the time, energy, and worry you spend in the process will hardly be worth the approval of a few acquaintances. And the people who fall for it will be acquaintances, because you can’t have any sort of close, meaningful relationship when you’re separated from the other person by orange cones and chain-link fences.

So I want to stop living this way. I no longer want DO NOT ENTER to be my life motto. I’m not sure of the best way to go about it, so I’d appreciate any ideas that you, dear reader, may have to offer. In the meantime, I’ll keep reminding myself of a totally obvious yet brilliant statement my therapist once made: “Just because you have a thought doesn’t mean that the thought is true.” So next time I’m tempted to push someone away until I feel like I have my act together or postpone an experience until I feel 110% prepared, I will try to assess the accuracy of my thought processes rather than automatically throwing up the DEMOLITION AREA sign. For example, how likely is it that family members or friends dropping by on short notice will actually make harsh judgements regarding the tidiness of my apartment? Not very. Instead, it is far more likely that my loved ones won’t even notice the dusty blinds or full trash can, or that they will notice but not think any less of me for it. And most importantly, their reaction, whether positive, negative, or neutral, will have absolutely no bearing on my worthiness as a human being. BOOM. Paige: 1, irrational thoughts: 0.

So tell me, friends: What are your suggestions for living life fully, even when you’re “under construction”?

 

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9 thoughts on “Life Under Construction: Pursuing Authenticity Over Perfection

  1. Paige, very insightful. We are all in a state of demolition and reconstruction, it never ends. In Christian circles, we refer to this as progressive sanctification. Breaking free from those things that hold us back (sin) and moving towards those things that set us free (Christ). You can fill in the parenthesis as you see fit, but the process is the same, putting off and putting on. Recognizing that you will never “arrive” in this life and that it is OK is a huge step. Great things can be accomplished despite our brokenness and rough edges, and this points to the fact that there is a God far greater than us involved.

    You have so much to offer. Don’t let the demolition keep people away from you, allow them in in spite of it. You and they will be blessed. And in the long run, no one will care about the dust on the blinds.

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    • Thank you for reading, Uncle Travis! I love the connection you pointed out between reconstruction and progressive sanctification.

      On the day I walked by the demolition sign, one of our scripture readings in church was from Psalm 63:2: “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.” I thought about how so many of us put up walls because we yearn to be accepted but are afraid that others will reject us if we let our true colors shine through. This verse helped me to realize that what I think we are really experiencing in these moments is a yearning–a thirst–for God and His unconditional love, acceptance, and mercy.

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  2. I think we are now, and always will be UNDER CONSTRUCTION, but that is not a fault, not something to hide or about which to be embarrassed. Cliché as it sounds, the moment we cease said CONSTRUCTION is the moment we stop growing. As with the world, humans are not static creatures, and those who matter the most will understand that perfection is unattainable. Now to only convince our own consciences….

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  3. I don’t think there is really a “fully lived” outcome you can measure. I think you kind of just have to listen to your needs (I NEED to go to bed) and your wants (I WANT to finish this chapter of HP).

    I have just recently adapted this “past/present/future” me way of thinking. It hasn’t been tested for validity or anything but I think, okay, past me is all of the regret/shame/etc. Present me is typing. Future me is somewhere probably sleeping in the law library. And when I need motivation, I think through all of the me’s. The best example I have for you is working out. So, past me wants me to succeed, past me doesn’t actually want to be validated. Present me wants Netflix and probably some chips. Future me would be proud if I went to the gym. 9 times out of 10, I end up going to the gym and I then let myself be proud. Maybe it’ll work for you, maybe it won’t, you are after all another flesh and bone.

    Maybe start with letting yourself be proud of where you are and how far you have come. You probably at some point in the past thought of how amazing your life would be once you arrived at this point. Well, here you are. Enjoy it. Remember, no one is ever going to knock on your door and say PAIGE, YOU ARE THE LUCKY WINNER!!!!! YOU LIVED IT ALL FULLY. And vice versa.

    I shall leave you with a quote because why not. “There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so” -Hamlet

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    • I definitely don’t do a very good job of letting myself enjoy and be proud of where I’m currently at; I tend to put all of my focus on where I’m NOT. Thanks for the reminder! 🙂

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  4. Hey Paige, looking forward to your blog site.

    I’ll attribute your “under construction site” revelation to GOD. He is blessing you at an early age. (I think of how long it took me to arrive at your conclusion.)

    A quote I have under glass on my desk:

    “Few understand that the Christian life is a process of change, neither perfection no defeat.” Paul David Tripp

    Your great-aunt, Bonnie

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