Next Best

I spend a lot of time worrying.  I don’t want to spend a lot of time worrying, but I do want to do a good job–the best job, the right job. I want to be the best version of me, the one God really had in mind. But sometimes, it just seems so daunting. There’s such a gap between that person and the one I am now. The one that, say, makes her daughter stare at the bubble bath instead of getting in (complete with the instruction to “imagine how much fun you could be having”), because that’s the most readily available consequence I could come up with at that moment for a lie.

Let’s take BPA for an example. BPA is the chemical in plastic that’s causing a lot of concern because of its effects on the endocrine system, especially in young children. I’ve been aware of BPA for a while, turning a rather blind, plastic-using eye from it. But I do feel guilty, as though I am slowly poisoning our family because I’m too lazy to throw out the plastic cutting boards or cups. So I thought, I’ll finally replace some of them. Which is how I ended up asking for glass and BPA-free containers  for Christmas. Then I started feeling guilty about getting rid of perfectly good things and spending money/energy/resources on new things. Because there are lots of people in the world who can’t afford food. They would not worry about whether their chicken was cut on a BPA-laden board. They would appreciate eating instead of creating a scenario in which a non-issue becomes an issue. Sometimes I suspect I am inventing my own drama.

But then I mentioned this endeavor to some friends, who nonchalantly threw out that any plastic–BPA-free or not–that goes through the dishwasher, is rife with toxic chemicals which leach out due to the strain on plastics from the harsh detergent and high temperatures. Right. So it really didn’t matter that I was trying to do the right thing, that I spent my Christmas holiday weeding through and replacing containers. I took one step forward only to realize I’m a hundred miles off course anyway.

Why is is that everyone else seems to very smart and together?

I really was crushed. I returned home to sit on the floor of my house and consider all the ways I had failed. Then to consider the ways that I’ve failed in fixing my failures (the above mentioned situation with K just another, different example). I broke down before my Lord in prayer. What am I supposed to do, I asked Him. How am I ever going to fix any of this?

It helped a little that I finished reading a book in which the author urged readers not to think of everything that God needed her to do, but rather the next thing. Sure, I agreed. The next thing. I can do the next thing. But what is that next thing? How will I fix this or that or the other? How do I go forward when there are a thousand different corrections that could be made? I prayed and prayed and prayed. Be Mine, God insisted. I am, I replied. Just as you are, He continued. Surely not, I replied. Surely yes. But there must be something else! A next thing! I was absolutely adamant.

I suspect this was one of those moments when God heaves a heavy sigh on my behalf.

Ask him his name, God finally instructed. I saw the maintenance guy outside of little gym where I work out. I’d long known that I should know his name, since we often say hello. I am always friendly, but not in this sort of way. It felt awkward and uncomfortable–like spreading myself wide open. And yet, somehow I knew that for me, this was much more important to God than obsessing about plastics. Being God’s meant being God’s hands, eyes, lips. This was the next thing.

I asked him his name. He told me. We had a pleasant exchange, though I was indeed awkward and uncomfortable. I was myself, obsessive and weird and maybe having failed in a hundred ways. But in God’s eyes, I was His. Just as I am. And maybe it’s not about fixing everything, but rather about being His. Making the right decision the next time, doing the right thing. My other friends may have figured this out a while ago. They may be miles ahead. But I am not alone. I’m with the one who loves me most, who knows my heart is good even if my pantry is not. We walk together from one next thing to another. We will make it to wherever He needs me to be, if I am His.


One thought on “Next Best

  1. Ah, have so been there. There are so many ways out there to get our houses/families/learning/selves perfect. So many projects/products out there to improve us. So many ways to fall short. No real way to do enough.
    Except to give ourselves permission, no? And look for contentment?
    If it makes you feel any better, I am still using some plastic. And have taken most of a year to switch over. And I keep telling myself that my mom used (and still uses) plastic (and not only washed it, but microwaved it–horror!), and we’re all OK.
    I think it’s a lie of our culture that we will be able to make everything safe and perfect if we just work a little harder.

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