I have heard it said that I should not attempt to do things when I am not at my best. Apparently if I am not at my best, I will make too many mistakes. I have even heard it implied that if I am not at my best, I might sin. Thus, I should wait to engage until I have a better chance to avoid sin. But the problem for me is that I’m not sure I have ever been at my best. And honestly, what does “at my best” even mean?
Does it mean I have to be EXCELLENT in all that I do? Or maybe it means I have to be totally awesome (a word that has little meaning anymore).
Does being at my best mean that I have to address all my potential limitations, thus limiting all liabilities?
If being at my best means being totally awesome, or perfect, or in a zone where my limitations are completely diminished, then I’m toast. Why? I’m simply NEVER in that zone.
All this could make me not want to show up to life. But I would never offer the hand of love. Why? Love is a great deal about simply showing up.
Fear. I have it. I hate it. I fear stuff. Actually the stuff I fear is not stuff at all, it is people. I fear people. Why? Because I am NEVER at my best. And this disappoints others. And if I’m honest, it disappoints me too. Some may even go so far to say that it disappoints God as well.
See the fear? See how I can get paralyzed? This need to be at my best in order to not disappoint could really get out of hand. I want fear to be erased more from my life.
If anything has taught me how to live less in fear and live instead with boldness, it is in the role of being a caregiver. When your Mom has an immediate need you gotta just go. When you are the lone caregiver, you have no choice but to show up. If I waited until I was at my best I would never go. And you know what? This would be letting my fear of sin or my fear of facing my limitations, keep me from showing up. This would be an act of injustice if I didn’t show up.
Here is an excerpt from my journal where I learned a great deal about “just showing up” on a day when I was NOT at my best as Mom’s caregiver.
Not At My Best - September 2011
Instead of resting with a cup of tea and Tylenol so I could feel better, I had no choice but to attend to Mom today. This did not make me happy. When I showed up, standing beside her bed, it was evident that I would NOT BE “my best” with her. Nor would she with me. To put it mildly, Mom wasn’t in the mood to see me. And let me tell you, I certainly didn’t want to see her. We began our face down as I worked to help her out of bed. It is getting harder and harder to get her to cooperate with me.
She was ornery at every turn. I snapped, “Well, aren’t you in rare form today!” Her retort? “Why is your hair curly on one side and straight on the other? That looks stupid.” Little did she know that just 15 minutes prior, the flat side of my head had been lying happily on a pillow taking a nap — a nap that I really REALLY needed! I swore at her. She swore back. I externally called her a dork (and internally called her a bitch). She sneered and called me mean.
I got her out of the damn bed so I could get her across town to the doctor. (Clearly I am NOT at my best. I just wrote the word damn.) Three hours later, we managed to stop by Walgreens and wait an hour for a prescription. We killed time trying on silly hats and taking selfies in the aisle. I still had my raging headache and my chest was getting tighter. I wanted my bed. In our selfie I looked like I was having fun. I WAS NOT. But clearly, by this time, Mom was delighted.
After our “fun” at Walgreens, I dropped her off at the front door of her apartment building. She was laughing and chirping to me, “Let’s do this again soon honey!” (She had already forgotten that she had been to the doctor.) I kissed her cheek, glad to know this day was near over. I returned to my car, took a minute to scroll through the far too many work emails that required my reply. As I pulled away I saw her sit down on the park bench outside her building. She lit up one of her cigarettes as I pulled out (darn those cigs). She waved, smiled and yelled out, “Thank you Laura! I love you!” As hard as some visits with her go, she usually is left laughing and smiling.
I suppose this journey with Alzheimers can be done without having to BE “my best.” I just have to remember that even a grumpy presence is a presence that will lift her out of her “rare form” days. I didn’t do this perfectly. But I showed up. I swore at my mother. I had a bad attitude even while trying on hats at the pharmacy. I couldn’t get her home fast enough. My mother irritated me at every turn.
In all of this God is pleased with me. But not because I showed up. But because I am already his beloved. Yes, I sinned today (I think swearing at my Mom is a sin). But God forgives me. And yes, I had major limitations. I really disappointed the nurse when she learned I had forgotten the list of my mother’s medications. But God is teaching me to embrace my limitations and learn how to be OK with disappointing others.
I will always be a daughter of the King of Kings. Not perfect. Never at my best. Just loved.
It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
Romans 7: 21-25
The Message Version
And you my friend are loved by God as well.
Loved fully when you sin.
Loved fully in your imperfections.
Show up. If you sin, ask for forgiveness.
Show up. Embrace your imperfections. Be willing to disappoint people. Oh well. You do what you can do.
Know you are loved by God. He delights in you, is pleased in you. Be free.
(And now I will look in the mirror and preach this Gospel to myself. Haha.)