Saturday, November 17, 2007

Come again? of the challenges I have been learning to embrace in my increasing brokenness is that sometimes good enough is best. My natural inclination is toward perfectionism...and when unrestrained, it can just suck the life out of me (and those around me).

I started learning this lesson when I returned to finish my college education at the ripe old age of 35--and stories about being the Old Woman of the Dorms will have to wait for another day!

Adult students are notorious for their perfectionism...and I had my share of "normal" (read: young) classmates who grumbled about who was messing up the curve. But the motivation was not about getting an "A" was about getting everything correct--knowing everything the professor "expected" me to know. After my first year of killing myself with reading and writing and studying, I had to get a grip on reality: 90 percent of my effort resulted in a solid "A" what was I getting for that last 10 percent? Nothing but exhaustion and isolation and stress. Those hours that I burned reaching for that 10 percent were very costly.

Good enough really was best. I have had that same talk with many other adult students over the years. Knowing just a little bit more (and we can never know it all) can lead to pride without ever leading to wisdom. I made a conscious choice to do with that 10 percent what I learned with the 90 percent. And that was a good start. It really was. But then my ability to "do" crashed and burned with the loss of physical strength and energy these past 13 years.

Now I have maybe 40 percent of my former physical capacity...but God has chosen this time to move me into active ministry. Go figure...God has used this diminished capacity to serve in ways I never could have ever dreamed or hoped. I have since, however, learned to have bigger dreams and higher hopes!

So...what, you may ask, triggered this reflection? And what does this have to do with blogging blues?


Come again?


It is so very annoying to The Abbess to have something out there on the net with silly errors. But I have decided that once I click "Publish Post" I just have to live with it. (Learned a lot more about this editing, formatting and publishing two books this last year.)

Sigh....shedding this perfectionism on my own continues to be a long, slow and losing proposition. Perhaps I must join Eustace and let Aslan "undragon" me of my knobby, gnarled and painful perceptions of what is best, and the put on Christ's humility and wisdom and strength anew.

Purple is the color of Royalty, after all. But this purple cloth is very costly--both to make, because God clothes all his children through the blood of Jesus--and to wear, because I may not wear it over my own clothes... but instead of them.

From now on. Every day. For the rest of my life. Forever.



tgrosh4 said...

I resonate with your story and wrestlings. I have lots to share, but I have only 8 minutes at my disposal. As such, I looked back on my blog for a quote on from Barry Schwarz's The Paradox of Choice. On p.79 he proposes Herb Simon's concept of satisficing as at the heart of how to fight back against the tyranny of overwhelming choices (a word to maximizers and perfectionists). To state the concept simply,

To avoid the escalation of such burdens, we must learn to be selective in exercising our choices. We must decide, individually when choice really matters and focus our energies there, even if it means letting many other opportunities pass us by. The choice of when to be a chooser may be the most important choice we have to make (p.104).

Furthermore, the most important factor involved in happiness is

close social relations such as marriage, serious friendships, and religious communities which actually decrease freedom, choice, and autonomy.

I affirm this truth. As it is from my relationship with God, the People of God, and my family, that decisions are primarily shaped. This morning I am choosing to be present with my family as my grandmother is dying instead of facilitating an adult education class on Practicing a Christ-centered Christmas.

When developing the adult elective, I was encouraged to invite some outside guests to address areas in which I was not as strong. By God's providence, this week is one of those (and the week of another guest presenter was likewise one of great stress). Although the class is a great innovation and one which I've been excited to share material from on The Advent Conspiracy's facebook group . . . there is no need to micromanage. I passed along the introduction of the guests to one friend AND will let it go in the hands of a one who doesn't need me there to hold her hand in order to hold my parents and grandmother's hands. After spending some time with them at the hospital, I will get back in the car to arrive at the late service late and then have a Harvest Meal . . . enjoying being with the People the God, celebrating the Lord's never ending faithfulness to us. May I offer my time in a manner which gives him all honor and glory.

Wish I had my TARDIS or the gift of teleportation like Hiro, but considering the creation as given to us I will be faithful with what I have and not dream of perfect worlds which wouldn't be so perfect if I was in them. Walking the narrow integrated path, standing at the crossroads. Times up. But I have so much more to say . . . the conversation will continue.

PS. Each day my choices with regard to family, ministry, and community are shaped by the teachings and reality of the Biblical story. Sometimes they are low order decisions such as choosing a t-shirt or what I'm having for breakfast which can be made with indifference or to turn off a visually inappropriate TV show, other times they take more care such as choosing to work on this post than spending this time with the children or a health care plan to best address of family needs, and other times they direct whole portions of life such as whether to move to South Central PA and continue w/InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. The larger the impact of the decision, the more prayer, reflection, and counsel it should be given. -- pasted straight from Satisficing blog post.

AbiSomeone said...

Thanks for making some time for sharing, Tom!

Bless you for valuing the passing of your precious Grandmother over the teaching delegated to others.

Yes, the more important the decision, the more prayer is needed...but some of them are so straightforward they don't even need a moment's hesitation.

I look forward to having a moment soon to check out the linked articles.

Be blessed....

Tamara said...

Great to see your blog. I was also an older student in seminary and shudder as I remember my first paper. I, too, learned that "good enough is best" as the real success is to how we reach out to know people and value them.

AbiSomeone said...

Thanks for stopping by, Tamara!

I'd been using word processors and then computers for over 10 years...but when I went back to college in 1991 (17 years after my Freshman year!), it didn't even occur to me that I needed a computer (I had my trusty typewriter back in 1974). But after my first week of trying to do homework on my little electronic typewriter, I called a computer tech friend to go with me to CompUSA and got a notebook over the weekend.


There are many levels and colors of success, aren't there? The ultimate success is loving others well enough that they feel God's love, eh?

tgrosh4 said...

Yes, 1974 . . . the year I was born :0 I started college fall 1992 with the computer in hand. My sophomore year, I had a roomate w/an electric typewriter. Several mornings I woke up to him printing a paper which he had typed in the night before. I can still remember the 'ringing in my ears.'

Dan said...


Great post. I live with typos. I don't like them. But I live with them. My wife Sheila, tells me that I chase away people from my blog when I don't fix my typos. Okay, perhaps. But for me, life and presence is much bigger than finding every typo. It's not that I don't do second reads but I miss things in my seconds reads. If I lose people because of typos, so be it.

Brad said...


you mean it's not spelled t-y-p-o-E-s?!

AbiSomeone said...'re such a pup, dude! doesn't matter how many times I proof something--there will always be something wrong. You might want to mention to Sheila that we do provide a service to those who live to find errors...I would suggest that these people get a real life, but they never ask me ;^)

Brad...funny boy, Mr. Editor! :^) And you pronounce the word "err" so that it rhymes with "fur" and not "air"...just a few perfectionist pointers.