Gail Edmonson wears many hats. Besides being a leader, friend, and servant at her church, she also serves in an official capacity as Administrative Assistant to her husband, Jerry Edmonson, Lead Pastor of The Fellowship at Cinco Ranch in Katy. The Fellowship is a large church, and Gail is often in the public eye.
People often have high expectations of a pastor’s wife and family, from their behavior to their lifestyle to their attire. And Gail was happy to meet those expectations. She strove to be perfect in order to please others. “I was perfectly fine with everyone thinking I was perfect,” Gail says. “I did not see anything wrong with thinking I was a perfectionist.”
Yet as a perfectionist she was not being authentic, and she knew it. She hid her feelings, avoided conflict, and put up fronts. Living behind the façade, Gail reached a spiritual plateau. She knew deep, hard work would be the only way to take her relationship with God to a new level, but she made the conscious choice to stay where she was spiritually. “I thought to myself, ‘I guess I will always be this way,’” Gail recalls. “I wasn’t willing to go through the pain I thought it would take to grow deeper in my relationship with Christ or with others.” She was not willing to take the risk of exposing herself. Ultimately God used a very difficult experience in her life to put her in a place where she was desperate for Him. Many months later, she was finally open to what God might do in and through her through Faithwalking.
It was Pastor Jerry who encouraged Gail to attend a Faithwalking 101 retreat. Gail admits she was “scared to death” to be confronted by God about her perfectionism. But God used 101 to teach her two important lessons. First, she learned that perfectionism is habitual disobedience. “I had always heard perfectionism was a ‘sin’ but I could never quite understand how trying to do the ‘right’ thing could be wrong,” she says. Second, her eyes were opened to the gentle kindness of the Lord in leading her to repentance. She was able to confess without feeling shame. Her walls started coming down.
Even so, after 101 Gail still feared condemnation from the Lord. Pastor Jerry, knowing Gail had no intention of going through 201, strategically suggested they host 201 in their home. Gail ended up participating, by default. She took tentative steps, slowly opening up about her perfectionism until finally, she turned a corner. “I’ll never forget the day, the very moment that I understood that God doesn’t stand over me shaming and blaming me for my sin. It was me doing that to myself. Not Him. And now I find I am not so condemning of others either,” she shares. “I’m not perfect and no one else is either.”
Today Gail describes herself as a “recovering perfectionist.” She still struggles with old tendencies but now has a greater awareness of how she is feeling. “I can choose my response, but I want my response to come from my guiding principles and who Christ is asking me to be, not who others expect me to be,” Gail asserts. She is also experiencing the freedom to say “no” to things that in the past she would have felt obligated to do, and she is doing a better job managing the anxiety that used to bring. Instead of putting on more hats or putting up false fronts, Gail is learning to put on the gospel of Christ, God’s garment of perfect acceptance.