Amy Baker’s book ‘Picture Perfect’ scratches a big itch for me. As a recently qualified biblical counsellor serving in the North West of England, I read her book, thinking, ‘This book would be so helpful for so-and-so’ because, as I read, I realised how helpful it was for me as a recovering perfectionist! Is there anyone who can’t agree with this statement from Baker, ‘I’ve found it easy to focus on “living for Jesus” and think little about what Jesus has done for me.’ It’s the old, old story and it’s about all of us: ‘busy doing things that look very godly but you do them from a heart that is focused on yourself…’
What makes Baker’s book particularly resonant to the reader are the many, diverse examples she gives of what perfectionism looks like in real life. Not only that, but she focuses on what it looks to change old habits, thought patterns and emotions in response to what Jesus has done for every believer.
At the heart of Baker’s book is the desire of a counsellor to share what she has learnt about biblical heart change over many years of counselling self and others in a world where ‘relationship is minimised; performance is maximised.’
Grounded in Romans 7:21-24, Baker describes the old, old problem of humanity, ‘We all have things we desire and love with more fervour and allegiance than the Saviour. We all have desires that we will sin to get, or sin when we don’t get them. We all have other gods that we trust and fear, deceits that we meditate on, and corrupted desires that we believe can bring us satisfaction…’
The beauty of this book is that, having described the problem and some foundational issues that underlie perfectionism in part 1, Baker doesn’t leave us lamenting and wringing our hands in shame at our folly. She goes on in part 2 to describe some key concepts that set the stage for Christ-centred change to take place.
In part 3 of the book, Baker tackles some of the specific areas that are often troublesome for perfectionists including fear of failure, guilt, pride, criticism, shame, and learning to rest.
She does all this with compassion and a firm assurance that ‘God gives us the standard of perfection to drive us to him. This standard helps us to see how desperately we need him.’
Baker shows us that the godly discipline of putting off our old self flows not from a restless striving to be perfect, but from being ‘rooted and established in God’s love… We… need a new attitude… We have to practice a new way of thinking. Instead of spending time thinking about how to get what we want, we need to dwell on God’s promises to supply all of our needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.’
I commend this book to any of us who are paralysed by fear, trying hard to look good to others, grappling with how to handle criticism, seeking freedom from guilt and needing steps to build a rhythm of godly rest into our lives. Read on, particularly into Part 3, to discover what God’s perfect standard looks like lived out in the midst of these challenges.
Baker truly brings to light how Scripture speaks to our modern-day manifestations of perfectionism and how we can turn to Christ in the midst of this. I commend this book highly.
Reviewed by Sally Orwin Lee. Sally is on the steering group of Biblical Counselling UK
Picture Perfect is available from 10ofthose