"Be excellent at what is good, be innocent of evil." Romans 16:19
Twelve years ago, on this very day, I turned twenty-five. I had higher hopes for myself than what actually transpired. Having recently graduated from seminary, I was theologically cynical, jobless; virtually penniless. In fact, I ran out of money that summer at the Austin City Limits music festival, true story. John and I went to the ATM to withdraw $40, the minimum allotment allowed, and that must have been more than our account held because a few judge-y lights flashed and the ATM monitor reported “insufficient funds.”
My friend and seminary colleague, lisa, taking pity perhaps or just being an exceptional friend, threw me a terrific party that year. “A Quarter Century of Excellence,” she called it. I even had a prize ribbon I wore that night – with those very words etched on it.
In high school, I stopped going to the girls’ Bible study that I and other seventeen-year-olds attended as we worked through a book titled – eyeroll – “Becoming a Woman of Excellence.” I just wasn’t gelling with the topic and I think cheesed off the pastor’s wife the night I skipped to go see Blink 182 in concert instead. I mean, come on. What could be more excellent than working up the courage to stage-dive one of my favorite punk rock shows?
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about “excellence.” In part because I’ve recently started working for a church that has quite an excellent reputation in the Quad Cities (and beyond.) I keep feeling like I pulled a fast one, like maybe I’m going to be found out for the clumsy bonehead I truly am. But, so far, my quirks have not disappointed anyone in leadership. In fact, lately, I’ve been wondering if those who conducted the interviews found something excellent in me; maybe that’s why I’m here.
Excellence…is a tricky tightrope to walk. Because while I am thankful to my new employers and church community for picking me, it is not Saint Paul Lutheran alone whom I serve. So, I have tried to make a regular prayer of this “excellence” conundrum. I give thanks to God for a seemingly spirit-led calling and vocational shift – but in the same breath, I pray for wisdom that I remember my main supervisor to impress and please, the One to whom I ought to bring glory, is God alone.
Will I ever become “a woman of excellence” ? Who knows. But I hope to approach God in prayer with the wholeness made evident in Christ; embodying truth in its essence; selflessness, humility, love and concern for others.
How about you? How do you wrestle with “excellence” ?
Thanks for Reading.