Excellence

I want to be a woman of excellence. That is my desire. It is not, however, always the reality. I was challenged in that this week. A friend in my Bible study shared something she learned at a recent conference. The speaker encouraged those in the audience, in their pursuit of excellence, to focus on the small things. At the grocery store, for instance: put your grocery cart back where it belongs instead of leaving it half up on the curb; put the bread back on the shelf when you realize you don’t want it, rather than stuffing it on whatever shelf is nearest; look the cashier in the eye and ask how she is doing instead of checking email or browsing through the magazines. These are small ways to be a woman of excellence.

I can’t get that thought out of my mind (in large part because I am always putting my cart on the curb and my bread in the magazine racks!). When I think of excellence, I think of “big” things – being active in church, helping those in need, that kind of thing. And those are important. But my days are filled with “little” things – grocery shopping, grading papers, doing laundry. Am I being excellent in those areas? Or do I not even think about those things because I don’t think they matter? Or because no one really sees them? Getting caught up on laundry impresses no one. And, seriously, there really is no such thing as being “caught up,” anyway!

We just finished the book of Colossians in our Bible study, and in it, Paul encourages the believers, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than men.” That is the secret of being excellent. Not doing things that people notice and praise me for. Not doing things that are “big” and I think will impress God, but doing “whatever” for God. Doing laundry for God, not men. Grading papers for God, not men. Granted, “men” benefit from those things. My kids enjoy having clean laundry, my students…well. sometimes they may wish I didn’t grade that paper! But far too often I do things for the praise of men and not for the Lord. And if I think no one is watching or “it doesn’t really matter,” then I cut corners or shove that bread on the wrong shelf (because I’m in a hurry to get home and do laundry!!).

But I want to be a woman of excellence.  I want to pursue God with my whole heart in everything I do, whether small or big. I don’t want to shirk the little things and think I can make up for it with the big stuff. Being excellent is a whole lot easier in theory than it is in reality. But I don’t want to be theoretically excellent. I want to be really excellent.

So I will focus on the small things, I will look for opportunities to do things no one else will see or notice or care about, things just between God and me. Like a secret club. Not to win’s God’s approval. He has already, in his incredible grace, given me that. But because I love him and I want to be like him. I want to be excellent because, as the Psalmist says, God’s ways are excellent, and I want to walk in them.

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