By Bailey Richardson
Would you love to skip forward into the after photo version of your life? We’ve all wished for the growth process to hurry up. But here’s a new perspective for you.
Our “Before” Photo Life
My husband and I bought an old farmhouse recently. When we closed on the house, I remember visions of “Afters” floating around in my head. Like Chip and Joanna Gaines, we would pull apart a giant cardboard picture of our “Before” house and stand astonished at how all our hard work paid off into a gorgeously renovated home.
The issue is, we watch episodes of Fixer Upper and our brains trick us into thinking we can have an “After” house pretty easily. We forget there was a long timeline and big teams of professionals making things happen behind the scenes.
As we slowly make our way through the renovation process of our house, I can see how often I’m tempted to want to reveal the “After” of myself, too.
Somedays I feel like a total “Before”: my emotions are too big, my shame has me hiding away from others and I don’t feel good enough to do x, y or z.
When You Long for the “After” Photo of Your Life
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could check off a final box on our self-improvement list and then present a polished, put together version of ourselves to the world? Like, forever?
Do you ever think, “Once my house is prettier I’ll start inviting people over,” or “Once I get more bold I’ll start praying for people out loud,” or “When I’m not such a mess I’ll start serving my community.”
We wait, wait, wait for something to happen. We wait for a big reveal—something that makes us believe we’ve finally arrived. Whether it’s a better job, a certain income, a pretty home, well-behaved children, or a happier marriage, we falsely believe there’s a destination waiting for us, and when we get there, we’ll finally be able to do that thing or pursue that dream we’ve been putting off.
In an instant gratification culture with constant access to perfectly curated photos on social media, the idea of messy progress is unappealing—almost shameful.
The Beauty of a Real, Messy Life
Presenting the finished product is much more popular than showing others the work in progress. (Don’t you agree? I kind of love when I go to a friend’s house and see it messy…it reminds me we’re still imperfect humans!)
As women of God, we’re not expected to be perfect. In fact, the pursuit of a flawless finished product is a dead end road for us. The truth is, only Christ is perfect. And he freed us from the need to be perfect so we can simply walk with Him in our messiness.
Look at what Paul says in Philippians: “In every prayer for all of you, I always pray with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:5-6 NIV)
Our work will never be complete until we’re face-to-face with Jesus. That’s not frustrating or discouraging news—that’s freeing news! For the rest of our lives, we will be learning and growing. As we surrender ourselves to Christ, he will continue making us more like Him.
And he will complete the work he’s doing in you.
What You Can Do Now
Take a breath. Hear that, sister? You can stop striving for perfection, fulfillment, and success outside of the love of Christ.
Remember you’re on a journey. You’re always going to be in progress. And that’s exactly where you should be.
A little later in his letter, Paul writes this: “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to test and prove what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil. 1:9-11 NIV)
We’re not striving for the perfect job, the best husband, the most impressive home, or the most killer wardrobe. We don’t need to try to be the perfect mom, friend, wife, daughter, or sister.
We simply need to trust that as we walk with Christ through our imperfect and messy lives, our love will abound more and more, and He will make us pure and blameless. We’ll be filled with righteousness.
He will complete the work he’s started in you, friend. You’re a work in progress—and that’s exactly where you need to be.
Wife Step: Think about an area in your life where you’re striving for a perfect finished product. Is it a relationship? A career? A home? Status? Wealth? Whatever it is, surrender it to Jesus.
Bailey Richardson is the wife of a Paul Bunyan look-a-like, the mama of a growing little family, and a woman on the wild adventure of pursuing Jesus.A self-proclaimed “recovering perfectionist,” Bailey loves writing for and connecting with women who want to more deeply experience the grace, freedom, and abundance that comes from following Jesus. You can find her at baileymrichardson.com or on Instagram @baileymrichardson.
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