I have been thinking a lot lately about excellence. Not just at work, but in every area of my life — as a Christian, husband, father, friend, church volunteer, Board member, Starbucks customer… Do I truly aspire to excellence in the work I do? In the relationships I have? In every-day interactions with strangers?
I guess this sudden conviction is a result of the convergence of many different coincidental situations, conversations, blogging comments, books and bible readings that ultimately leads one to hear that “still small voice.” Or, in my case it is more like a divine ass-kicking, with God telling me what I should already know by now. Which is a message that says:
“Stop striving. Take a look around at what’s right in front of you, and give it your best. And then trust God for the future outcome.”
That’s actually from a page right out of my journal. I went back to read it a few days after I originally wrote it, and it was like God was punching me in the gut with those words. “Uh, yeah, Bradley – Hello?” Bam!
You probably already know by now that I tend to get caught up in “What’s Next.” The next big exciting deal or promotion or position or recognition. It’s like I can’t function without having some huge ambitious goal looming in the horizon, calling out to me, luring, pulling and compelling me towards some “better” future. It’s like a mental illness, really. I guess I’ve been hard-wired that way for quite a while now, and in many ways it has served me quite well because I got a lot accomplished over the past few years. But I’m getting a little older now, and God is giving me a very distinct message that says “Whoa, boy. Settle down. Deep breath. Good.”
Quite literally, just like that. “Look.”
And when I stop, and breathe, and look, what I see is this: my wonderful family that I love so desperately, with a beautiful and intelligent wife and two exceptional teen age girls; a terrific job with great people to be working with; a beautiful church community; many other wonderful friends that I share work with on Boards or committees; and I would even include the interesting and caring group of new friends that I have found online through my Blog and other Blogs and websites discussing this strange concept of living our faith in our careers.
It’s not that I have been ignoring or neglecting all of these relationships up to this point, but I wonder if I’ve been fully present. Have I really, honestly been giving them my best? Have I been excellent? Or, have I been thinking more about what I will get out of this? Or, what will this look like on my resume? Or, am I sitting in that meeting thinking, “What am I going to have for dinner tonight?”
I’m constantly trading up, rather than engaging fully, completely, in the moment.
So, I was reading the Psalms yesterday and I came across a verse that I never quite caught on to before. It somehow capped this message that I was getting from God. It’s the last verses of Psalm 60, verses 11 and 12, and it says:
“Give us help from trouble,
For the help of man is useless.
Through God we will do valiantly.”
That word “valiant” seems like a quaint old 14th century middle-English word that doesn’t really belong in a Blog conversation. Certainly not a word that we use very often today. But it conjures up in my mind thoughts of bravery, courage, victory, boldness… and excellence. So, after reading this, I decided that instead of driving myself mad scheming about the future, I am going to apply myself, fully, valiantly, with God’s help, towards the things that are in front of me right now. Truthfully, this might mean cutting back on some obligations and committees to do only the few things that I can realistically excel at. It may be that I rearrange my priorities at work so that I am focusing on the things that are the highest and best use of my time, talents and abilities. It definitely means that I am giving myself more fully to the people and conversations I am having, with a clear focus on their needs and interests, rather than my own.
I am learning that God is the God of now. He wants me to do the best with what is before me, and trust Him for the future outcome.
Through God, we will do valiantly.