My Best?

I often feel uncomfortable when people talk about how they did their "very best" on their missions. "How can you have done your best?" I mutter in my head. "That's impossible. You could always do better." The pessimism almost certainly comes from my own experiences.

As a 19 year old preparing to face my fears and go out to accomplish what was asked of me, I made a deal with God that is probably familiar to many a Moho. I promised God that I would put away all of my fears and hold nothing back, that I would serve with all of my heart, might, etc. etc. in exchange for the simple blessing of being switched from gay to straight by the time I returned. This was no passing thought; I prayed deeply and sincerely about it and felt confident that God was willing to keep his end of the deal.

Despite the optimism, I didn't become the super-confident missionary I needed to be overnight (or over the space of two years, for that matter). I found myself doing less than AP-caliber work (I lacked AP-ness-- teehee, say it out loud). I blame a large part of it on my suffering from what my therapist recently diagnosed as social phobia.

Did I love my mission? Yeah, I loved the spiritual highs, the baptisms, the friendships I built, the culture, the testimony I gained, the packages I received, the lives I helped change, the train rides, the DDR. Did I hate my mission? Yeah, the door approaches, the street contacting, the difficult teaching, the zone leader exchanges, the companions, the 18 months it took to speak Japanese, the phone calls, the unkind members, the biking through blizzards while ice shards made my eyes bleed.

And in the end, I found myself back at home with no change to my attractions. Had God let me down? No, not necessarily; I could have listed thousands of things that I could have done better as a missionary, so I could not claim to have done my best. Having started my mission with "best" as my main goal, such a realization was crushing. If I wasn't straight, I couldn't blame God.

I was recently praying for forgiveness of recent sins and rededicating myself to the Lord, when I found myself promising to "do my best." My thoughts turned to my mission. At first the pessimism set in, and I thought the task impossible.

But then I remembered a significant lesson I learned from Robert Millet in an Institute lesson last year. We're taught that we are saved by grace "after all we can do," a concept akin to doing our best. Is it really possible to do "all we can do?" Don't we fail every day? Brother Millet pointed out that rather than seeing this as some vague requirement to be absolutely perfect, we can understand the principle through the words of the king of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies: "It was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God."

I remain confident that I can do my best simply by living in a repentant state. I hope by doing so the Lord will be able to mold me as he sees fit.


Sean said...

Dear Calvin,

I wanted to say that we need to have another scary movie night because that was a lot of fun! :)

I also wanted to say that the Lord only requires that you "try your best," whatever that may be. You might think that you failed the Lord, but in reality, you didn't. He knew what you would do and how far you would be able to go. Then as you hinted at, the Atonement makes up for the rest. Isn't that concept beautiful?

I hope your doctor's appointment goes well tomorrow and make sure to let me know what's up.

Charlie said...

Sure, I may have tricked myself into reading all of these blogs to better understand the Moho world and those close friends I have in it, but really, is that the truth?

I think through your post today, and Seans the other day, the truth has come out. I read the blogs because I need to understand myself better and I need the wonderful examples of my friends to keep me focused and to learn those gospel principles I am often ignoring or lacking to understand.

Thank you for your wonderful insight. I think that is an important concept to understand-maybe not fully adopt quite yet, that'll take some training--but I can at least try.

Oh and I could have diagnosed you with a social disorder years ago.

Romulus said...

My Econ professor said AP-ness two times during a lecture. We were laughing so hard that he dismissed us early. :)

October Rising said...

Have you read Stephen E. Robinson's book "Believing Christ"? It really helped me understand the meaning of "doing my best" and what "my best" is.
I'm sure you are always doing your best. And like Sean said, that's all God asks. ;)

playasinmar said...

You had DDR on your mission?!


Aric said...

Well said. Our best one day could look very different than our best another day. That's basically what I was alluding to last night.

The more I come to understand the nature of God, the more I am convinced that all we are expected to offer Him is our best, daily.

One day, your very best may be to just make it through the day while other days your best may be a whole lot more.

Looking more long-term and eternally, I think that all who give their best (not to be confused with perfection) will be given the same reward.

Thanks for sharing.