I don’t have what it takes to be a baking goddess in the kitchen.
My beloved banana breads burn on the outsides but are gooey in the middle. I frequently grab baking soda when it should be powder. I never have the right amount of milk, or peanut butter, or other scrumptious addition a recipe may call for.
Recipes are not my friend. More specifically, I don’t value the precision and perfection baking requires. Want me to make a batch of chili? I’ll thrive. A conglomeration of roasted vegetables? They’ll be swoon-worthy. I can dish and dash and dab my way into a delicious meal — as long as it its success doesn’t depend on precise measurements.
But perfection isn’t a part of my personality.
However, being better is.
I want to be a better friend.
I want to be a better neighbor.
I want to be a better daughter, sister, aunt.
I want to be a better writer.
I want to be a better minister.
I want to be….better.
In fact, the worst times in my life — physical, emotional or spiritual — have all come at times when I’ve been trying to pursue perfection.
While I may not have a flare for perfection, I do have a mostly Type A personality, which means I flourish when I’m the one in control. Sometimes, my need for control bleeds over into a quest that looks very similar to perfection. And I usually crash and burn.
I remember one such situation in college, where I was trying to be and do too much. I was wound tighter than an 8-day clock, and was spinning myself into the ground with anxiety and panic. Bemoaning my situation to my parents, my dad, exasperated, gave me what stands to be the best advice I’ve ever received.
“Stop trying to be the best at everything.”
In other words, stop trying to be perfect. In other words, take a chill pill. In other words, do what you can and not what you can’t.
That day, I received permission to let go and permission to give up the pursuit of perfection.
Yet I never stopped working at being better.
Each day, I try to achieve three things:
1. Do something that makes myself better.
2. Do something that makes my home better.
3. Do something that makes someone else better.
This is my recipe for life at the moment.
These three things, when they are achieved, combine for an element of self-care. Making myself better sometimes looks like getting my hair cut or painting my nails, or something more substantial like attending an extra lecture or going to the chiropractor.
Making my home better goes beyond day-to-day chores (like taking out the trash or cleaning the litter boxes), but includes the extra love that makes a house a home — a freshly painted front door, washing my sheets, organizing the hall closet.
Making others better is sometimes the hardest, but often the most rewarding. This can look like delivering a bowl of strawberries to a neighbor or writing and posting a “thinking of you” card. I think a reason why I love working part-time at the library so much is that it is a place that naturally leaves everyone better than when they came.
Growing up, my youth leader instructed us to leave a place better than when we found it. This often meant picking up straw papers that weren’t ours at restaurants, or pushing in chairs we didn’t sit in, etc. Of course, my youth groupers receive the same instruction.
Maybe I’m a little old-school John Wesley in my beliefs, but I believe as Christians, we should all strive to be better — to pursue something close to sanctification, or Christian perfectionism, as the Methodist tradition might call it.
We’re called to be like Jesus, and although true perfection is unattainable, we can still mold and make ourselves better. Making things, places and people better can be a goal for anyone.
May we all strive to be better versions of ourselves, and live into our calling more fully.