Adjust Your Scale
by Rachel Olsen

There’s a moment I dread when visiting the doctor for a check-up. It’s not putting on that tissue paper sheath-dress they mistakenly call a “gown.” It’s not having my finger pricked for blood tests – though I’m really squeamish about that, and have been known to pass out.

It’s the moment right after the nurse finishes her questions, grabs her clip board, and announces the doctor will be in to see me shortly. Pulling the door closed behind her, she leaves me alone with it.

I try to look away. I’ll stare at the clear glass jars of cotton balls and tongue depressors. I’ll flip through their six-month-old copy of “Better Homes & Gardens” – but I can feel its presence looming in the room. Like it’s staring at me.

I already know what it’s going to say about me because I’ve read it before. It’s going to say I don’t measure up. I’m not reaching my potential. I don’t equal my ideal. It’s the height/weight chart that defines the perfect weight for your height and gender.

It extends no mercy. It offers no grace. It makes no allowances for how old I am, how many babies I’ve birthed, or the fact that my husband can eat three plates of food every night – plus dessert – without gaining a pound. It demands perfection from my 5’2” self.

A few years ago I heard someone quote a verse that seemed to be the scriptural equivalent of the height/weight chart. It was a single verse with which to measure my worth and fuel my expectations for perfection. It was Mathew 5:48: “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

I figured this verse justified me dressing my family in matching sweaters, in the middle of July, to take the Christmas card photo because I’d just gotten the perfect haircut. I figured it warranted pricey tooth whitening treatments because I drink coffee and tea, and it shows. And I figured it would be my defense when I drove my family nuts about deep-cleaning the entire house because my new friend said she might stop by.

While the verse came in handy when I needed to justify my quest for perfect teeth, perfect photos or a perfectly clean house, it added to my disappointment, guilt and occasional loathing when my life, body or family didn’t match the ideal notions in my head.

In the years since first hearing that verse, I developed a core conviction that goes like this: If God created life, He alone gets to define it. That conviction drove me to discover what Jesus meant by “be perfect.”

When Matthew wrote this verse, he used a word that translates into English as “perfect.” But the ancient Greek word means something a little different than Mr. Webster’s definition. The Greek word is teleos, meaning “complete, full grown, developing.”

The first two pieces of that definition indicate something already accomplished, while the third indicates an ongoing process. So somehow, this perfection Jesus prescribes for us is both already complete and yet still developing. Complete in Him; still at work in us. So we’re allowed to be a work-in-progress.

All parts of this definition, however, refer to maturity of character, rather than a flawless figure, immaculate home or faultless execution of a job. Jesus urges us to bear His perfect image of love.

Truth is, Jesus doesn’t care quite so much if there is dust on our mantle, a stain on our teeth or a scratch on our car. He’s not worried if our children’s clothes don’t match, their toys aren’t organized or even if they get a “C” in calculus.

He is, however, interested in our spiritual maturity. Too often, God’s priorities and ours differ.

Jesus teaches that I will not find my worth in my ability to reach my perfect weight or accomplish my to-do list flawlessly, but in the fact that I am a child of God learning to give and receive love. I can weigh my worth on scales of grace.

That’s good news for a recovering perfectionist. As John writes in 1 John 3:18-19: “My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it” (The Message).

Adapted from the chapter “Adjust Your Scale: Revealing the Secret to Perfection in God’s Eyes” in Rachel’s new book “It's No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know.” Proverbs 31 Ministries is pleased to offer Rachel’s book for sale in this issue. Visit with Rachel online at her blog at


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