By April Yamasaki —
Good, better, best,
never let it rest,
until the good is better,
and the better is best!
I don’t know where, why, or how I learned this little rhyme as part of my childhood, but it might explain in part why I always did well in school and why I never liked softball. For at least I knew how to spell and could work at improving, but I was never best, better, or even good at softball, so quickly gave up on it.
Now as an adult, I realize that many things in life run in the opposite direction of my childhood rhyme.
Last year on impulse I bought a beautiful fern, placed it in a bright spot away from direct sunlight as instructed, watered it dutifully not too much and not too little (or so I thought), but one by one the beautiful stalks turned brown, and one by one I removed them, until there’s now just one lone survivor. I’m not sure why my fern has been so unhappy, but it’s definitely gone from good to not-so-good and worse.
On a much more serious level, a friend has a stubborn, terminal cancer resistant to her heavy chemo treatments, and so far unyielding to our prayers for a miraculous recovery. My mother’s health declined in spite of her determined efforts, the excellent medical care she received, and all we tried to do as a family to support her.
I realize now the limits of “good, better, best, never let it rest.” I can’t make everything better by sheer will power and hard work. And rather than wearing myself out on a never-ending treadmill of perfectionism that doesn’t lead anywhere, I’m learning to practice self-care and rest in God’s care.
In Four Gifts, I explore self-care for heart, soul, mind, and strength. That means tending to priorities, taking time to nurture my relationship with God and with other people, thinking good thoughts, getting enough sleep, and more—not because I need to do these things perfectly, but practicing them exactly because I’m limited, human, imperfect.
That’s why I think of self-care as part of a spirituality of imperfection—because self-care acknowledges our humanity. Self-care acknowledges our limited energies, our limited time, our limited strength, yet allows us to go on. And when all of my self-care strategies fail, when I fail myself and others, God remains faithful in his care for me.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 encourages us:
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Though outward progress might elude us, though we might seem to be going backwards at times, yet things are not what they seem. Inwardly, we are being renewed by God’s care day by day, and there is eternal glory ahead. So do not lose heart.