Balance, contentment hard to find

By Curtis K. Shelburne: Religion columnist

When I started to write this column, I think I thought it needed to be excellent. But somewhere in the first three lines, I changed my mind. I’ve decided to opt for what might be technically described as something in the range of reasonably good, somewhat helpful or a tad thought-provoking.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m a little sick of excellence. I’ve got a hunch that we’d likely see a lot more of it if we’d quit yammering about it.

A few years ago, it became fashionable for almost any institution to describe itself as reaching for excellence.

That’s fine, I guess. I’m just not sure it’s all that excellent. What does it mean anyway?

Maybe my standards are too low. But I’m happy if the guy who throws my newspaper just lands it somewhere on the property. It’s fine with me if he wants to strive for excellence in newspaper-tossing, but I’m more than willing to settle for pretty darn good.

Maybe what bugs me about the term excellence is that it’s so hard to pin down. It’s either way too narrow or way too broad. It’s often superficial, a barely skin-deep veneer. It tends to lean seriously toward ostentation, arrogance, and condescension— all of which smell bad. Whatever else excellence is, the real thing doesn’t stink.

 Is excellence, as in near-perfection, in every area of one’s life possible? If I answer yes, that likely means I don’t understand how high a standard excellence really is. Or, worse, I don’t understand the depth of my own arrogance and have way too high an opinion of my present or potential abilities. Not perfect yet? Just work longer, harder, smarter, and with a better business plan. Phooey!

 I suppose a fellow who tosses newspapers could reach for excellence by practicing newspaper-tossing even in his off hours. But he’d be a lot wiser human being if instead he’d spend more time with his family and opt for less excellence in newspaper-tossing.

 Don’t get me wrong. God’s people should do everything in the name of the Lord. We ought to try to do a good job at home, at work, at worship, at play—all to his glory. But real excellence is more a matter of falling down broken at the cross of Christ than it is a matter of handing the Almighty our impressive résumés.

 We’d better glorify God if we ask him to help us in Christ to strive for a little excellence at finding balance in life and the right kind of contentment in him.

We need God’s wisdom in knowing what areas of our lives at what times really deserve extra attention, from what areas at what times need to make do with adequate.

 We need wisdom. And we need humility. To find some is truly an excellent thing. In fact, it’s pretty darn good.