Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Striving For Excellence

I read an article the other day in an old magazine I had forgotten about.  The article was about doing everything with excellence versus mediocrity.  The author quoted Steve Jobs who said, "People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on.  But that's not what it means at all.  It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.  You have to pick carefully.  I'm actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done.  Innovation is saying 'no' to 1,000 things."

The article went on to talk about narrowing down your focus and priorities so that you have enough time to do the essentials with excellence.  How in order to do things with excellence, we have to say 'no' to 1,000 other things that may look fun, good, or important but really are just ways to spread you too thin so you are too busy to do the few critical things well.

I dismissed the article as a good read and went about my day.  But the article kept following me every where I went.  I thought about it in the grocery store, I thought about it when I came home to a messy kitchen and decided I had to clean it right then, I thought about it when I was planning my homeschool week--was I striving for excellence in my life or have I been settling for "good enough."  My mom gave a talk at a women's retreat years ago entitled "Why Strive For an A When a C is Good Enough."  This theme of excellence isn't new, but it apparently is something God wants to address in my life because today's Bible reading picked up where the article left off.

I just started reading my way through Colossians and today's section was Colossians 1:24-2:5.  The key verses are Colossians 1:28-29.  We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.  To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.

Earlier in Colossians, Paul talks about being called to be a servant of the Gospel.  That struck me yesterday. What does it mean to be a servant of the Gospel?  Paul answered that question with today's reading.  His whole life was dedicated to telling others about Christ--specifically the Gentiles.  He labored, struggled, endured imprisonment, physical torture, never giving up on the call God placed on his life--to share Christ with others.  No where in my Bible does Paul ever say that he settled for "good enough."  No, Paul struggled and labored, relying on all God's energy to help him.  He never settled for anything but excellence in all that he did.  And Paul only focused on one thing--proclaiming Christ to others.  Paul didn't allow himself to be distracted by all of the other things that he could have done, he kept his eyes on the call--being a servant of the Gospel.

Likewise, I need to strive for excellence.  I need to stay focused on the things God has called me to do--to love my husband, to raise my children to love Christ, to educate them well, to make my house a home that welcomes others, to build Community and to share Christ with others.  These are the things that God has called me to do.  These are the things that I should be focusing 95% of my time and energy on.

I won't go into just how much of my time is actually spent on these six goals, but I will admit that it is definitely not 95%.  I have allowed other things--less important things--to distract me from these six goals.  I have often settled for mediocrity in these areas.  Let things slide.  Declared myself too tired to get up and correct my children when they're being mean to each other.  Ignored the pile of laundry taking over my laundry room because I'd rather finish the book I was reading.  Neglected to tap into the energy that God has given me to fulfill His call on my life.

That's not okay.  God does not call me to mediocrity.  He calls me to excellence.  He has called me to fulfill my six goals, and he has supplied me with the gifts, resources, and energy I need to do it.

Monday marked the line in the sand.  The day I chose to start striving for excellence in the six key areas of my life.  So that when I get to the end of my life, I can say that I lived an excellent life, that I did all that God called me to do to the very best of my ability.  So I can look back with no regrets thinking that I could have done more--because I already did it all and sacrificed all to fulfill the call God has placed on my life.

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