Don’t Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good.


“Have no anxiety at all,but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,make your requests known to God.Then the peace of God that surpasses all understandingwill guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters,whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise,think about these things.
Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me.
Then the God of peace will be with you.” 2 Phil 4:6-9
This was the reading yesterday. The reading for the hardest Mass I’ve had in a long time. 
After a long and lovely weekend of the sweetest friends visiting and enjoying some time off, Jason had to go to his office to get a huge load of homework done. He decided to run to the 12:30 Mass, and as the boys were still in pajamas, I said I would take them by myself to the last-chance Mass at 5. I had done this successfully about 3 or 4 months ago. I didn’t stop to realize that Henry has since started walking and with that milestone gotten far crazier in church. 
We lasted a grand 5 minutes in the pew. After our second “I need to pee!” trip – and after Henry tried to repeatedly to tell a baby joke to the old lady in front of us with the Tory Burch handbag and Gucci glasses who clearly found it very unfunny by her rigid back and refusal to even look at my baby’s face which was grinning confidently at the side of her head – I gathered my boys and our stuff and ushered us to the narthex area in the very very back. 
Midpoint of the reallyyyy long homily (of which I hadn’t heard two words), I decided I would just give up. I wasn’t having any prayer time; my kids were running around in circles, literally; the music was awful (always the case for last-chance Masses and I always forget how awful ahead of time); I had no help and was fairly confident something in the back was about to be shattered by one of my guys; surely, I thought, I had merited a pass on this one. God already marked my attendance on the record, and I could faultlessly slip out after an honest try.
As I narrowly rescued Henry who tried for the 15th time to pull the huge vase of flowers in front of the statue of Mary, I realized, I really seriously could use the graces of the Eucharist today. I decided until someone threw a tantrum or got hurt or broke something, I could totally handle this, if only I could make it to communion. 
And you guys, God is truly never outdone in generosity. Right before communion, I pulled Will over to me [and miraculously, he actually came], and I tried to help him say one prayer for this Mass. I usually tell him at this point that Mommy is about to receive Jesus in heart in Communion, and Will can’t have communion yet, but he can ask Jesus to come into his heart and Jesus promises He always will if we ask. Will knelt right down in the middle of the floor in the back of the church with me, folded his hands reverently, and prayed the most heartfelt, beautiful prayer all on his own that I had ever heard him say.
“Dear Jesus, please come into my heart, and into Mommy’s heart, and Daddy’s heart, and Henry’s heart.”
I was so overwhelmed by this – it sounds totally anti-climactic, but I felt so undeniably in the moment that it was a kiss from Jesus. I felt like I was witnessing Christ speak to my little boy, knocking at the door of his heart. For all I know, Will may have a lasting memory of that moment. 
I made a very grateful, very joyful communion. And even though we did leave early, I felt the peace of God enter my heart, just as Will had prayed for. Just as the readings spoke of.
Lately, I have had this refrain going through my head: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
I am particularly tempted to do this – to just throw in the towel if I think what I can do is lame. I have realized over and over again lately how, choosing the good – however simple and unimpressive it is,  however not enough it may be (as is often the case in my life right now) – it is always met with the most humbling gift by God. He never fails to take my paltry offerings, my very weak attempts, and make them something beautiful. Something that renews my own heart. 
I feel like this reading from St. Paul – always one of my favorites – speaks to this reality. We shouldn’t be anxious in our desire for holiness, for the good life. We shouldn’t be focused on anything but the good we can choose right now in the moment. It might seem pathetic or simple or small. (In my case, it usually does). But like the widow’s offering of all she had to give [Luke 21:1], or the tax collector’s prayer of “O God be merciful to me a sinner” [Luke 18:10], God shows us over and over again, He wants us to give from our knowledge that we are not enough. We need Him to make any sacrifice we make worthy anyway.
I felt renewed last night that my path to holiness as a mother, is just going to look unimpressive this way. It’s going to be small and embarrassing. It’s never going to be perfect or even enough. But it is good. It is good to run 10+ minute miles behind my big stroller because it renews my heart and helps me to thank God in the moment and enjoy my kids more. Even if I can only run 3 or 2 times a week, it is better to do that than to just give up. It is good to sit down for 5 minutes of quiet prayer time even if I feel ashamed that I can’t ever seem to get in 30 minutes. Or as Theresa encouraged me, to pray during runs! It is good to open your home to spend time with lovely people, even if your house is messy and needs a paint job. It is good to kneel down next to my three year old in the very back of the Church and listen as he asks Christ to come into his heart, with his little baby voice in his own baby words. It is truly lovely and good to go to Mass with my children, even when they are behaving terribly and I don’t hear a word of the homily, as long as I offer it humbly to God and freely choose to be there. To focus on Him, to ask Him into my heart. Because I need Him right then the most. 
How do you pursue God in the little things? How do you find yourself being asked to give from your smallness instead of in the ways that would feel awesome and gratifying? How do you resist the temptation to let the perfect be the enemy of the good in your own life?  

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3 thoughts on “Don’t Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good.

  1. This post made my day.

    I'm a good listener but not always a good talker. I just can't seem to consistently articulate exactly what I want to say… and I totally beat myself up for it. But I know how to make people feel like I am really, truly listening. I know how to be present.

    On Sunday I was flying to an interview, worrying that my sounding-dumb-when-I-open-my-mouth weakness was about to be painfully exposed. I boarded my second flight, sat down in my aisle seat, opened my book on helpful interview tips and began to read. The old man across the aisle tried to make small talk with me and my first instinct was I HAVE TO FINISH READING THIS BOOK OR I AM TOTALLY GOING TO BLOW MY INTERVIEW. I successfully ignored this instinct and engaged in some mundane chatter.

    After a few minutes of conversation he casually remarked that he was returning from burying his wife. Wait, what?

    They had been married for 50 years. He had a drinking problem and was convinced that no woman would ever be able to love him, but she did. She taught high school history and won many teaching awards. They traveled to Scotland recently and she played the bagpipes for him as a surprise. I asked if she had ever played before and he said no… and laughed so hard that he was nearly crying. “She was terrible! She had such a sense of humor!” They never had children.

    She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in May and died in late September. She experienced tremendous pain near the end.

    He repeatedly told me that he would stop talking if I felt bothered by him, but I continued to prompt him to share stories and memories. I listened and listened and listened. God placed me in the path of this lonely, grieving man so that I could listen and he could be heard.

    We landed and with tears in his eyes he thanked me for being so kind to him. As he walked away another passenger tapped me on my shoulder and whispered in my ear, “That was so sweet of you to let him talk about his wife like that.”

    A very powerful experience of God.

  2. @Christine – I love that!! So awesome how just being present in the moment ended up being the greatest gift to him and yourself. I'll be keeping this story in mind in the future when I'm tempted to get caught up in my own things instead of choosing to be present. Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. Officially in tears after reading Christine's comment. Wow. God seriously knows what he's doing.

    I related to this post so much. As I got to the end, I kept thinking – THIS NEEDS TO BE SHARED PUBLICLY! Ha! But I digress. I struggle with this so much. If my house isn't perfect, I just give up trying and the dishes (oh I hate dishes) really pile up. If I can't run at least 30 minutes, I just won't run at all (explains my 2 month “break”). If I know I don't have time for an entire rosary, I just won't start one. The worst. I, too, need to stop letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. I really think it is a pervasive problem for young moms. We've just heard it for too long that we can “do it all.”

    Oh, and your house may be messier than the lady with the Gucci glasses', but I will bet $20 that she doesn't have pre-dinner Enrique dance parties with her precious babies that pray for Jesus to come into her heart! So much joy and love in that little house of yours 🙂 I am still bursting with joy and admiration for your family after our visit. You have such a beautiful family!

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