The Imperfect Pastor

Everyone wants to be at their best, and I think that’s natural. Most people have goals, ambitions, and yearnings. That being said, I’ve also observed that humans can be just as critical as they are motivated. My internal critic resonates as loudly as my inner coach.

I am not a detail-oriented person, nor do I consider myself a Type-A personality. However, I am still a perfectionist. Being a perfectionist means things need to be a certain way, or else I consider it a complete disaster. To-do lists end up turning into “epic poems” of unfinishable scope and size. Perfectionism isn’t about being perfect to me; instead, it is a futile exercise of extreme self-criticism.

"you will deny me..."

As one among a multitude of people living with a mental health condition, the desire to be perfect can morph into a massive burden. One of the most challenging narratives I’ve encountered from my peers in mental health recovery is their feeling of needing to surpass societal expectations. However, upon closer examination, I often find that these “societal expectations” don’t truly exist. As I navigate the world, I exaggerate what is expected of me.

Get off the hamster wheel of perfectionism.

I have chosen a selection from the Gospel of Mark for this devotion because Peter is pretty hard on himself. In the wake of the execution of Jesus Christ, his closest student denies having anything to do with his recently deceased Rabbi. This was an inevitability. Jesus predicted Peter’s multiple denials. The big question is: What did Peter think was going to happen? Is Peter crying because his rejection of Christ goes against who he thinks he is?

I want to do everything. Pastors visit people, baptize people, distribute communion, choose music for worship, marry people, bury people, write sermons, attend meetings, post on social media, teach Bible studies, attend community events, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Ministry is a vocation with a very broad job description, with vague expectations and an endless amount of tasks. Part of getting a handle on being a Pastor has been seeking what I am being called to do in the moment. With a little planning, peace, reflection, and humility, I have been able to discern how I am being called to serve God and other people. Guess what? I am just like Peter; I screw up. I am an imperfect Pastor.

Embrace Imperfection

Our mistakes are as inevitable as Peter’s. When I think about Peter, I wonder if he thought he was willingly defying, offending and hurting God by denying him. Sometimes I think Peter might think he defies Jesus out of Malice. Ultimately, upon deeper reflection, that is not what I interpret when the rooster crows a second time. 

Peter is simply being human when he denies Jesus. He is fulfilling the expectations of his natural state of existence. There is nothing wrong with being human. There is also nothing perfect about being a human either. 

Make sure to comment below and join the conversation!

Seth Perry

Seth Perry

ELCA Pastor -Devotional Blogger- Mental Health Recovery Educator-Living Well with Bipolar Type 1


8 Responses

  1. Thanks for the insights. I appreciate your journey and the Jesus light you are holding up for others. I really liked this section: There is nothing wrong with being human. There is also nothing perfect about being a human either.

    Something for all of us to remember and a new way to consider Peter.

  2. This is the first time I have received your blog. I appreciated receiving it and reading it.
    I am a Type A with a once perfect, but now increasingly imperfect, memory, and as a result I often make lists. As I get older, the to-do lists grow longer and the number of days and years remaining to accomplish them shorter. A lifelong, deadline-oriented person, I now often find myself doing what today has immediate priority and leaving the rest to “tomorrow.” While procrastination has become a problem, living in the moment can also have its benefits… I am human and therefore imperfect. What is today’s priority?

    1. Thank you Leilani! I like your final question. “What is today’s priority?” I have to remember to live in gratitude of each moment. For me that is a difficult task. It is something I strive for each day.

  3. Thank you for your refreshing devotion for this date, Pastor Seth! This is also my first time receiving your blog. I attended your wonderful “Understanding Mental Health” presentation as part of the SPAS Tool Kit workshops at Faith Lutheran Church in Forest Lake on February 24. May God continue to bless your ministry!

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I always forget that I am not perfect and I cannot achieve perfection. I meet a lot of people that struggle with this as well.