from excellence to acceptance

For a few weeks now, I’ve been working on an idea called “The Excellence Principle.” Ideas will usually take me a few weeks to flesh out and come full circle, and this time was no different. I had been writing nuggets down about why I believe that doing things with excellence brings God the most glory, but the idea never came full circle. It seems that Jesus had some things to teach me-

Sweet boyfriend and I have been dating for a little over 11 months now. There is no greater microscope into your own heart than sharing it with another person, especially when that person is a forgiving, patient and challenging leader. From the beginning, things that I thought were no big deal when I was alone suddenly started making waves in our relationship. One of those being my tendency to go into “catastrophe mode.”

The description of my Myers-Briggs Personality assessment kind of hits the nail on the head with this one: “Under stress, ISTJs may fall into “catastrophe mode”, where they see nothing but all of the possibilities of what could go wrong. They will berate themselves for things which they should have done differently, or duties which they failed to perform. They will lose their ability to see things calmly and reasonably, and will depress themselves with their visions of doom.” 

Yikes. Talk about a humbling truth. The thing is, when I first read that, I didn’t believe it. But then I realized that my pursuit of excellence has brought me to a terrifying place: disappointment.

I have believed for so long that if I raise the standards for myself, I will be pushed to achieve superior things. As I began to hold myself to a near impossible standard of excellence, it became skewed to an expectation I would never meet. I was consistently disappointed in myself. Blaming myself for not measuring up, for not being what I thought I had the potential to be. I took the blame for almost everything, and never allowed myself to make mistakes. It all came to a point in the form of a nervous breakdown I had over a missed assignment for me to realize that I had brought myself to a ledge, and someone (sweet boyfriend) was having to talk me down.

There’s a fine line between embracing the greatness of God that is embedded in our DNA, and accepting the fact that you are not, in fact, God.

I do believe that doing things with integrity, honesty, and consistency, that being dedicated and committed, exhibiting values and principles honors God. I consider Joseph. Who was sold by his jealous brothers into slavery, but continually proved that his circumstances were not larger than the God he served. So he proved himself excellent in each situation, from slave to prisoner to second-in-command over all of Egypt. He is an example of being excellent regardless of task.

Here’s the puzzle I am learning to solve: I want to be excellent because my God is excellent, but it is only by God’s grace that I can be anything close. Excellence is not perfection.

God has called me (and I believe all of us) to a higher standard of living; to a pursuit of excellence, not because it makes us look good, not because it earns us any points towards heaven, but because it is a response to the saving mercy and love of the cross. However, we are still human. We will still make mistakes, and there will be times when we don’t measure up. We have all fallen short (and will fall short) of the glory of God. The beauty comes when we accept the grace given in our mistakes, when we can believe that Jesus has forgiven us, and when we forgive ourselves. When we can avoid “catastrophe mode” and remember, like Joseph, that Jesus is bigger than our problems, our stresses, our fears, and most of all, our expectations of ourselves.

We will not be perfect on this side of heaven, but one day we will sit at the throne, perfect and pure and whole. Until then, I will do my best to bring God the most glory in my life, and understand that I cannot do it alone.


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