I am not a perfectionist. I'm too much of a realist to think that I will ever achieve perfection in any area of this life. My realism can, however, co-exist with another "ism". Betterism. I may not be able to achieve perfection, but it's perfectly reasonable to think that I could be better. As a result, I am constantly striving to be better, live better, eat better, mother better, exercise better, look better, pray better, worship better, teach better, learn better, cook better, clean better, organize better, relate better, listen better, love better. Better is one of those words that doesn't look like a real word anymore after seeing it over and over. I try to be a better wife, better friend, better sister, better daughter, better reader, better writer, better Christ follower, better advocate, better, better, better.
And I'm tired. And I don't know the answer. Because I don't think that the answer is to become complacent and stop striving to be better at some of the these things. Because becoming a better mother is a worthwhile goal. Becoming more organized has many benefits. And so it goes with many of the things on my list.
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!""Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
And with this one passage, I am reminded that my "betterism" is so exhausting because I am trying to become better without drawing near to the Only One who has the power to create a better version of me through the transforming work of his Spirit.
And how ironic that Martha was just trying to be better. A better servant. A better hostess. The better sister. And Jesus tells her that if she really wants to do what is better, she has to stop trying so hard to be better at these things. Because all of these things are things that can be taken away from her. But sitting at the feet of Jesus, and what she will learn by doing so, cannot be taken from her. Hmm.
I also find that
It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.
And my favorite
Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.
And the most humbling by far
To obey is better than sacrifice.
1 Samuel 15
Because I think deep down I tell myself that this striving to be better is an act of sacrifice. I tell myself that most often it is not even about me. It's about being better for others. And with this I justify my "betterism". But this verse really gets to me. These are the words that Samuel speaks to Saul after he has failed to carry out the Lord's mission exactly as He asked him to. He did almost exactly what God said, and he felt he could justify that which he chose to ignore by making sacrifices to God. I do that. And Samuel tells Saul that God's not impressed.
So I ask myself, what mission has He given me that I am not carrying out exactly as He has asked me to? And this I do know the answer to. He asked me to love Him with everything I have and to love others with everything He gives.
And suddenly I feel just a little less exhausted, because now I remember that there are only 2 things that I need to be better at. And even though they are 2 really big things, it feels much more manageable than the 47 things I was striving for 10 minutes ago. And I smile, knowing that if I become better at these 2 things He has asked of me, I will automatically be better at the really important things from my other list. And with this realization, I say to my Holy Reminder-
Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
And finally, this is my prayer for you, my friends:
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.