I have been a perfectionist. I remember how surprised I was when I saw a list of sins which included pornography, embezzlement, adultery, and perfectionism. I mean, really, isn't perfectionism good? The Bible says, "be perfect as I am perfect," right? So I tried to demand perfection of myself and my family.
I found myself very stressed all the time about our very obvious imperfections. Others would tell me not to worry, but then they would worry about me and my imperfections. The message people gave me was very confusing. Be easier on yourself, but you've got this problem you have to get right.
I don't think people were trying to be mean, but this is the message of the church. I remember once listening to a sermon about what we needed to do better, and as guilt ate away at me, the pastor kept saying, don't feel guilty, but .... How can you reconcile that message? I couldn't, and I left every sermon either consumed with guilt about what I should be doing better, or anxious about others who needed to be doing better. Most pastors and missionaries spend their entire ministry life consumed with this worry about how to get their people to be better.
This message ate away at me. I was continually guilty and frustrated and easily angered. I couldn't see any loophole in the message. I felt as though I were suffocating, but I couldn't see any escape from the rope around my neck. Don't be so frustrated about imperfections, but get perfect.
One day, in the midst of this morass, God said to me, "Stop." He said, "Your heart is a tangled ball, and if you pull the wrong strings, you only make it tighter." He told me that He knew which ones to pull and which ones, though ugly with sin, had to be left alone for a time, because they were too deep in the center of the tangle. I was to stop pulling at the strings in my heart and in others' hearts, and let Him do it.
Some of you may know the story of the Gordian knot. It stood at the temple of Zeus at Gordion. It bound a wagon to a pole. The knot was intricate, and no loose ends were exposed. It was weathered and hard. A prophecy said that the man who could untangle the knot would conquer and rule all Asia. Every visitor would try the knot before leaving town. Eventually, Alexander of Macedonia came, and he tried the knot. Some ancient records say he managed to untangle it; others say after finding it unworkable, he took his sword and cut the knot, thus fulfilling the prophecy. He did, of course, go on to conquer the world.
My heart, as all hearts, is a Gordian knot. God has undertaken to untangle our hearts. Cutting the Gordian knot may have worked for Alexander the Great, but God does not desire to destroy us in the process of untangling our hearts. He will not slash through our tangled hearts. Instead, He will patiently work at the knot until we stand before Him free and untangled.