The Chai Conversations: On the Best and the Good

While it feels highly unrealistic to commit to a blog post a day when I have a baby due any day now, I’m at least giving it a shot, linking up with a 31 day challenge.  

When I think of tea, I think of sharing a pot with someone and having a good heart to heart talk.  My goal this month is to brew a few cups of Chai…to open my heart a bit and invite response.  I’d love to begin a few conversations.  So draw up a chair and muse a bit with me.

 

When you work in the profession I do, living overseas working with people with great needs, people assume you are in it for the love of it.  Living the dream.  The height of fulfillment on a daily basis.  Yes, it may be hard but there’s nothing you’d rather do.

And that’s the way we all want to live, isn’t it.  For passion.  Fulfillment. We want to live the way children run, free, fast, unexhausted.  Where the blood coursing through your veins propels you to live, fully,  sprinting, heart beat pounding in your ears, face wide open to the sky, arms swinging.

People assume I love my work.  Love my life.

And I do.  Some days.  And then some days I want to run away from it, blood coursing, arms swinging, sprinting face first into the wide world of predictable and comfortable and 9-5 and job descriptions and anonymity and English.

Most days I’m just there.  Neither loving it nor hating it but trying to be faithful.

Sometimes we do the right thing because it is the right thing and we train our hearts to follow.  I wish it were the reverse—our hearts know best and if we follow our hearts we will do the right and rewarding and beautiful things.  But sometimes our hearts are lazy.  Sometimes our hearts have good intentions but are weary.  Sometimes our hearts don’t know what to think because they were designed to feel and not think!

So we go back to what is good.  We go back to what is true.  We go back to the things that are pure and noble and worthy of doing them.  And we do them for those reasons, not because we desperately need to feel something in order to be alive.

Parenting is like this.  By our facebook posts, you’d think our children were always smiling in our organized living rooms with combed hair and wiped noses.  But we don’t have our cameras on the ready in the mornings when they’ve put clean undies on top of the dirty ones and won’t hurry up.  When we need to walk out the door in two minutes—or should have walked out the door two minutes ago—we aren’t camera ready, aren’t even really loving it, this parenting of rush and fluster.

Of course we have those good moments too, moments where our kids stand at the school yard fence, too small to be embarrassed by blowing kisses and kisses and still more kisses and catching ours and stuffing their pockets full for later.  We have those early morning snuggles or those mid-day giggles that fill the pockets of our hearts.  We love that.  We can live for it.  But when our pockets get turned inside out by the day and all we have emotionally left is lint for the hungry child, the dawdling child, the defiant child, we keep on being parents.  We keep on acting in love.  We act in love not because we always feel it but because it is right.  It is good.  We calm ourselves by reacting calmly.  We remind ourselves to love by acting lovingly.

I had a conversation with a friend a few weekends ago.  She shared with me a thought a co-worker presented speaking to a group of new college students.  “Sometimes,” this lady said, “we get so focused on doing the best.  On being the best.  Whatever happened to just settling for good and expecting good.  God looked at his creation and declared it good.  Why can’t good be good enough?”

So, I find myself, wondering about good, wondering about right.  I find more peace there than when I strive for all dreams and all fulfillment all the time.

But my question is:  Is that healthy, whole realism or settling for less than the best?  What do you think?

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6 thoughts on “The Chai Conversations: On the Best and the Good

  1. The problem with best is that she is an insatiable task master. She is constantly moving the finish line, she diminishes the value of the others who are also in the race and she offers only a temporary “bestness.”

  2. Thanks Tricia – this is an awesome idea. I’m going to risk writing my comment to join in conversation, rather than hold back because I am not as eloquent as you are. I love reading your musings.
    Lately I’ve had to ‘let go’ of some things, realizing that it’s not humanly possible to do it all to my expectations and still be healthy (mentally and physically). A thought that occurred to me while reading your post is….maybe we need to think of ‘best’ in ‘long-term’ thinking. Long term – will I be any good for myself, my husband and my family if I strive to do everything on my list and be all things to all people, or is it ‘best’ for myself, my husband and my family if I rather take care of myself so that I can be ‘good’ for them longer – and isn’t that the ‘best’ decision after all?

    • Lyla,
      Thanks for commenting! Nice to hear from you. I think your concept of long-term thinking is very interesting. Sometimes what we think is best in the short term turns out to not matter later on, or, like you say, costs those around us. Thanks for the food for thought.

  3. While your question is the same one that plagues me on the subject, I wonder if the view of “settling” for less than the best is exactly why we need to reframe our understanding of good. At times it seems to me that I’m so conditioned by culture, by experience, by the messages of the church a to strive to be “the best” when in reality God declared all things to be good. Good is the gift that God has given us. Good is equal for all, good is available to all, while “the best”, as your first commenter described it, is insatiable. Good brings with it a freedom to rest, while “best” it seems cannot provide that freedom.

    On the flipside I wrestle with how to avoid complacency in this view. But again I think the reframing of good can answer that. So rather than examining my efforts and asking whether I did “the best” I could, examining them to determine whether I did good. If I have not done good, then I have failed.

    Practically, how does this look (I love my metaphors) “good” could be picking up a frozen lasagna and bagged salad to provide for a family in need of a meal while “the best” could be slaving over the stove all day to produce a 5 course meal from scratch that is perfectly executed, while complacency looks like not bothering to even provide at all. Is the first option settling for less than the best? Perhaps, but why is that a problem?

    Perhaps we do need to settle. Settle into the freedom of good and the knowledge that our efforts, however great or small they may be are good in the eyes of God.

    • I like how you have reframed it–where you can settle into the freedom of the good without the relentless task master of the best driving you.
      Perhaps the freedom of the good reminds us of who we are–loved and enough without our efforts while the best teaches us to strive precisely for those things.
      Thanks for the food for thought 🙂

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