For years, I didn’t smile with an open mouth.

I had a mouthful of crooked, crowded teeth. Imagine a picket fence rearranged by a wildly errant bicyclist — or a Mack truck. That’s what my teeth looked like.

I had postponed orthodontic care for years, because in my heightened state of teenage self-awareness, braces seemed even more unattractive than crooked teeth. I didn’t want to trade in my picket fence for barbed-wire.

That’s what we perfectionists do in America, The Land of Just-So. We weigh our options, deciding which one — in the end — will make us look best.

By eleventh grade, I gave in. Which meant that I would be wearing braces for my senior pictures. Which meant that I would, under no circumstances, open my mouth to smile for the photographer.

My mouth in my senior pictures will forever be catalogued as a thin, pink line.

That’s what perfectionists do in this get-it-right culture do. We hide our imperfections. We incline our ear to the yammering inner critic, instead of the voice of a loving Father. He is a perfect Father, who loves imperfect us just because He wants to.

Sometimes I forget that He who began a good work in my will carry it on to completion (Philippians 1:6). Instead, I want perfection. Now.The fear of Not-Good-Enough can shackle.

A perfectionist’s just-right mantra is this: “If I can’t do it right, then I won’t do it at all.”

I wonder:

Do we forget that we are works in progress?
Can we agree to cut ourselves a little bit of a slack?
Dare we – gasp! – give ourselves permission to laugh at our own blunders, instead of camouflaging them?

The Good News is this: God can’t NOT love us. He doesn’t just love a perfect version of us. He loves the us us — rough patches and all.

We can’t do a single thing that will make Him love us any more. And we can’t do a single thing that will make Him love us any less.

Jesus – the Son of God — died for us while we were yet sinners. We — the imperfect, defective and blemished — have been rescued by the spotless and perfect Lamb.

That seems permission enough to flash a smile, crooked teeth and all.

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