Monthly Archives: February 2015

My Imperfect Best

Not long ago I’d had a couple of really busy days, and I was tired. Not just tired tired, but the kind of tired where all you want to do is sit down and cry. It wasn’t a matter of being sad or upset; I was just plain pooped out.

Unfortunately, when I get that tired I become my own worst enemy. As I sat mindlessly vegetating in front of the TV, all I could think about were the ways I could have done better or been better, about how everyone else would have been able to handle the same things and still have had enough energy to go dancing, about how my best effort just didn’t seem to stack up when measured against my perception of others’ capabilities.

When bedtime rolled around and I knelt to pray, my mind was blank. Oh, I could have rattled off a rote list of things to be grateful for and blessings to seek, but I knew they would be just words, not a prayer—and, either in spite of or because of how tired I was, I wanted to pray, to commune with God.

So as I knelt there, eyes closed with tears trickling through my eyelashes, I said the only thing that came to mind. “Heavenly Father,” I asked, “please accept my imperfect best.” End of story.

I’ve thought a lot about that plea. In a strange way, those words given to me were a tender mercy from the Lord. They reminded me that God doesn’t care that I am imperfect. In fact, in the eternal scheme of things,  I’m supposed to be imperfect at this point in my progression. I’m supposed to be making mistakes so I can learn from them; it’s the way I grow. I’m supposed to need God’s help to get through this earthly existence; it’s the best and easiest way he can teach me to be like him. My best is supposed to be imperfect; it’s a reason to keep striving for improvement.

I think, especially as we get older, we tend to presume that our mortal stage of life somehow equates with where we should be, or at least where we think we should be, in the eternal scheme of things. After all, I’ve been around long enough that surely I have gained some wisdom and perspective. In my mind, I assume I should have life somewhat figured out by now, but I don’t and that makes me feel like a very insufficient human being. But there is a reason God calls us his children. From his vantage point, that’s what we are no matter how long we have been on the earth—children.

I’ve often wondered if our mortal existence is kind of the teen age / young adult phase of our eternal progression. Think about it. We’ve apparently learned enough to leave our heavenly home and take on the responsibility of choosing for ourselves how we want to be and what we want to become. However, like many a teenager, we don’t know as much as we think we do. Consequently, in our immature—at least from an eternal perspective— thought processes we often make impulsive decisions and do dumb things—sometimes really dumb things. We are easily swayed by the opinions of others and value their approval over God’s. Even though God’s offer to help is always extended, we think we can do just fine all by ourselves—and promptly proceed to blindly stumble into ill-advised, sometimes even dangerous situations. In other words, we are imperfect—big time.

Fortunately, God is infinitely long-suffering. He continues to call to us and patiently awaits our response. He eagerly watches for the moment when we figure out that we know next to nothing about life, and he continually pleads with us to come to him to learn the glorious mysteries of eternal being. And through it all he expects and even embraces our imperfection.

We do this as mortals as well. There is something very gratifying to watch our children progress from grace to grace. For example, one of my grandchildren was simply born with a fairly negative outlook on life. It reached a point to where Mom and Dad decided counseling was in order. Over the last year or so we have quietly cheered from the sidelines as we watched this child become happier and more contented with both self and life. I think this is the way God views our imperfections—as beginnings of better things to come.

The wallpaper on my computer desktop is the following quote from Lorenzo Snow: “Do not expect to become perfect at once. If you do so, you will be disappointed. Be better today than you were yesterday, and be better tomorrow than you were today.” To be honest, I can’t say I am a better person today than I was yesterday. Any growth from one day to the next is almost imperceptible, except perhaps to one with divine vision. Instead, I have to reflect on whether or not I am a better person than I was a week ago or a month ago. Sometimes even that lengthened time frame is too short, and I have to compare who I was a year ago with who I am today in order to identify how or whether I am a better person.

blade of grassGod is neither surprised nor disappointed with our imperfections. However, although he is patient with our weaknesses, he expects us to continuously strive to improve and progress beyond our shortcomings. But he doesn’t require us to make these changes independently, for he knows that we cannot fully overcome our imperfection through self-discipline and will power alone. I have a quote from the Talmud stuck to my filing cabinet that I feel illustrates God’s great desire for our growth: “Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, ‘Grow, grow.’” If he sends angels to encourage a blade of grass to grow and fulfill the measure of its creation, how much more must he yearn for his children to do so. Accordingly, he has provided the Atonement which “endows us with those powers necessary to save us from every weakness, every ignorance, and every obstacle that might otherwise hinder or prevent our progress in some way.” (Tad R. Callister, The Infinite Atonement, loc. 787)

A friend once told me she hadn’t given her best because her effort wasn’t perfect. Her way of thinking assumes that perfection is a possible option. It’s not—at least not in this life nor through our own labors. I am confident that God accepts our imperfect best because, even with all its limitedness, it demonstrates our desire to become like him and share in his joyful existence. What loving parent would ask for anything more?

Image copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_simsonne100′> / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Fix It

It was dinner time, and my two-year-old grandson wasn’t interested. That was nothing new. Nonetheless, Grandma was coaxing him to eat some pizza. I got him to eat the cheese off the top but not the crust—until, that is, one of his older sisters said he would eat triangles. So I showed him his piece of pizza shaped like a triangle, and he willingly ate it. It seems that as he has been watching educational videos in the car during trips to dance, pre-school, tumbling, acting class, school pick-up, and just general errands, he has already learned about shapes. For some reason, food seems more enticing when it is presented to him in a circle, square, or a triangle. Whatever works, I always say.

Fix it beadsWhile the triangle ploy worked fairly well, I actually found a better solution—at least for this one meal. Grandma’s toy box includes a set of snap lock beads. (I had to look all over the internet to find out what to call them.) Anyway, my grandson connects them together and calls them a train. Somehow they ended up on his high chair tray, and I found that I could shovel quite a bit of food into his mouth while he was playing with them. At one point the train “broke” when a couple of the beads became disconnected. He picked up the two pieces of his train, looked up at me with those almost irresistible sweet baby blues, and said “Fix.”

Always the teacher, I said, “You try.” He promptly and easily reconnected the two beads, and the train chugged on. The scenario repeated itself several times over the next ten minutes with the same result. Interestingly, when he was here a couple of nights ago playing with the “train,” he no longer asked me to “fix” when the beads became disconnected. Instead, he simply reconnected them and went on playing. He had learned that he could do it without Grandma’s help.

I realized that very often I have the same exchange with God. I see something in my life that I perceive as broken and ask him to “fix it” because I think it is beyond my capacity to make right. There are occasional times where his divine intervention is essential. At those times he mends that which is beyond our power to cure or endure. More often, however, his reply is the same as mine to my grandson, “You try.” It takes effort on my part, but eventually I generally figure out a way to make things work, although, as Douglas Adams said, “I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I need to be.”

However, “You try” isn’t the only answer I have received to my petitions to correct a situation that I believe is broken. Sometimes God’s response is “Just wait; things will work out.” What’s funny is that I have given the same advice to my children so often that it has become a “Mom always says” part of our family lore. I must confess, however, that it’s far easier to give that advice than it is to receive it. In fact, I think that guidance is harder to deal with than being told to look for a solution. When some aspect of my life isn’t working properly, I don’t want to wait for things to get better, I want it to be better today, not at some fuzzy future date. I’m afraid I subscribe to the please-God-give-me-patience-and-give-it-to-me-now approach.

There is one more heavenly response to my fix-it entreaty I have experienced, one that was highly unexpected. It happened on a day when I had been struggling more than usual with my anxiety / depression challenge. I was so tired of feeling like I was somehow a lesser being, like I wasn’t just broken, but inherently, perhaps even eternally, flawed. I prayed, imploring, “Please fix me!” The Lord’s answer? “You’re not broken.”

It was startling response, and one I wasn’t prepared to accept. I certainly felt broken. How could the Lord say I wasn’t broken when it seemed impossible for me to enjoy life in the way I perceived others were doing? How could he say I wasn’t broken when it seemed like my connection to the Spirit was intermittent at best? Didn’t the fact that I was dependent on pills, counseling, acupuncture, meditation, yoga, herbs, supplements, and anything else I could find to help me stay on a somewhat even keel prove my brokenness?

It has taken me awhile to accept his answer, but eventually I have come to the beginnings of understanding. Ultimately, none of us is broken in an eternal sense. We’re not inferior or second class or any other variety of perceived insignificance. Rather, we are all given certain sets of circumstances which we must do our best to manage. What I identified as my inadequacy wasn’t me, it wasn’t who I am. Instead, it was, and continues to be, simply a divinely permitted situation God is using to help me fulfill my becoming. It is the summer’s drought making my roots reach deeper for living water. It is the fall’s fierce wind teaching me to adapt and bend without breaking. It is the winter’s frozen ground tutoring me to trust in the inevitability of spring with its emergence of budding beginnings.

I’m sure God could place me in an enclosed, experientially-controlled dome where the temperature of life would remain a comfortable constant. He could send me emotional manna so I would never have to work to be happy or be required to make the choice of good cheer. He could fix every disconnect before I even became aware of it. But because he loves me, and all of his children, he doesn’t. Instead, he whispers encouragement as we strive to figure things out for ourselves, as we wait, patiently or not, while circumstances resolve themselves. In other words, he lets us fulfill our purpose for coming to earth—to become more like him by gaining experience. And through his celestial mercy, as Bruce Hafen has stated, he has provided an atoning sacrifice that makes it possible to learn from life’s experiences without being condemned by life’s experiences.

Fortunately there is another definition of “fix” that pertains to our relationship with God. It is the use of fixed in the sense of being secure, immovable, stable, and permanent. It is in this sense that God is fixed, fixed in his omnipotence, his omniscience, his divine character, and most important to us, his children, his infinite and eternal love. We, too, can claim this definition of fixed. We can learn to be fixed in our discipleship, in our testimony, in our obedience to his commandments, and in our love for him. And that’s the fix that fixes all.