The Day After Perfect

By Katie Helmreich

Ah, summer… Sunshine and a more laid back routine. The kids are home doing their childhood thing. The Suburban has been packed, unpacked, and repacked for trips so often this summer that I’ve already lost count. Beach towels and swimsuits are nearly always laid out to dry, adding a festive touch to the front porch. And popsicles. So. Many. Popsicles. 

I love summer and all the fun we squeeze into it! I go with the flow, hang up the hammocks, pack the snack bag, and take the pictures. I’m pretty sure heaven will smell like sunscreen! 

So why do I feel so stressed out and overwhelmed? 

Somewhere in the sun soaked chaos of June, my neat little stack of good habits toppled over.  In embracing “laid back,” I let go of a few small things. Getting up early? Hah! Journaling…? Oops. No phone scrolling before breakfast? Eesh. Yoga? Daily devotion?  

So what if I miss a day (or a week) in my journal? Who cares?

But I know a few minutes journaling helps me think more clearly. And the power of writing “I’m grateful for…”  and “I’m looking forward to…” several times changes the tone of my thoughts for the rest of the day. 

Is daily devotion really such a big deal? Maybe not.

But the longer it’s been, the harder it gets for me to identify the cause of mounting frustration, anxiety, and emptiness. So, for me at least, yeah. It matters. 

It’s silly, but when I have a box to check and I can see the checked boxes adding up, it’s easier to stick with it. I had a little habit tracker going for a few months this spring, and it was a big help! 

Did it matter that I had a 50-something-day streak going for yoga? Not really.

But it sure made a difference the next morning when I was debating whether or not I had time for yoga. Same thing when it came to every other little habit I was working on!

But in June? I quit checking boxes. I didn’t mean to, but I did. Since then the good habits have been dropping off, one at a time, until I’ve found myself floundering. 

There was a time I would have beat myself up about it. I legit felt like I’d gotten important things figured out! And then I just quit doing them?!? Common, Katie… 

Jon Acuff (a fellow pastor’s kid), writes a lot about goals and habits. He writes about the fact that there will be a day after perfect. Always will be. At some point, for whatever reason, that thing you’re working so hard at doing won’t happen. There will be a day after perfect. 

What will you do then?

Quit? Or reset? 

Another favorite inspiration, Dawn (from The Minimal Mom on YouTube) often chats about the fact that no system or plan will do itself. We figure out the how, and then we make it happen. But inevitably we’ll fall behind; it’s just part of life!

Quit? Or reset?

Paul writes a similar, encouraging message to his friends! After urging them not to be distracted by false teaching, or lured off track by the culture around them, he writes:

But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

2 Thessalonians 2:13-15 (ESV)

When we get off track, whether it’s in our habits or falling into harmful sin patterns, do we quit? Or reset? 

We’re not just trying to live good lives, stay healthy, or be successful in the things we set out to do. We are chosen and saved by God! 

We’ve been given far more than a pep talk. We’ve been given the Holy Spirit! 

The day after perfect, the Holy Spirit will keep on sanctifying. The Spirit will continue to shape and grow our hearts and minds through daily habits, experiences, and God’s Word. 

The day after perfect we’re blessed with the opportunity to look back and learn from our experiences. What might be behind the things that worked well in the past? Which things turned out to be only destructive distractions? Who might be blessed if I’m willing to share the fact that I screwed up, but that God was there to sanctify and strengthen me? 

The day after perfect we see how much we’ve grown from our last set back. Those things we’ve learned—the ways we’ve changed, connections we’ve made, systems we’ve put into place—they’re not gone. It may be a “two steps forward, one step back” sort of experience, but that’s still growth. Even if we take one step forward and three steps back, we’re far from where we began!

The day after perfect… 

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (ESV)

Today, the day (week) after perfect, I’m grabbing a notecard and starting a new habit tracker. I’ll grab a few minutes for devotion, unroll my yoga mat, pull out my journal and write: “I’m grateful for the day after perfect.”

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