“Is that the best you can do?”
I overhead this question a few Sundays ago when I was passing by two men from our church on my way to the coffee bar.
“Is that the best you can do?” was part of an exchange that went like this:
Man 1: “How are you?”
Man 2: “OK.”
Man 1: “OK? Is that the best you can do?”
Man 2: “Today it is, yes.”
Indeed, “OK” was the best he could do that day. It was better than he could do some days. It was an honest answer.
But it did not play by the unwritten rules of social interaction, which maintain that “fine” or, preferably, “good” or, ideally, “great” are the expected responses to the standard question, “How are you?”
“Most people aren’t comfortable with a perceived problem (your feelings) until they feel like it’s close to being solved,” wrote Akilah S. Richards on Everyday Feminism.
Of course, we do not want to stay mired in despair. Of course, we don’t want to make a pit our permanent home. If we must be in a battle, we want to fight it and win. If we must be going through a struggle, we want to do just that: go through it and come out on the other side.
But while we’re living in this messy world, there are some battles that don’t get won in ways that make anyone cheer.
There are diseases that don’t get healed.
There are broken relationships that don’t get repaired.
There are losses that never stop hurting.
There are wrongs that don’t get righted.
This is part of the reality of life, but it is not the part that makes for good Sunday morning banter.
When we know someone in these realities, we may get used to their problem or tired of hearing about it. They’re doubtlessly tired of it, too, but they’re probably not used to it.
And so, to my friends who are living (maybe as permanent residents) in seasons where some days “OK” is the best—or better than—you can do, I make this pledge . . . and hope with all my heart I keep it more than I break it.
When healing doesn’t come, I will stay with you in the sickness.
When joy doesn’t come, I will stay with you in the sorrow.
When provision doesn’t come, I will stay with you in the want.
When reconciliation doesn’t come, I will stay with you in the estrangement.
When answers don’t come, I will stay with you in the questioning.
When clarity doesn’t come, I will stay with you in the uncertainty.
And when morning doesn’t come, I will stay with you in the night, trusting that together in the darkness, we will fan hope’s flame.
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