Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Doing Your Best

Do your best. What an overused phrase. What does it even mean? I have actually been putting a seemingly significant amount of thought into this phrase over the past year. You'd be surprised at how much inner conflict I have been experiencing because of these words.

This phrase seems to be thrown out at every nervous test-taker, athlete, employee, you name it. It just sounds like a good encouragement, "Don't worry about your score, just, you know, do your best." I'm reminded of the P90X motto, "Do your best and forget the rest." But... your "best" isn't really measurable. I suppose that is why it is such an appealing concept, it is just kind of something you work towards, no one can tell you you didn't reach your personal "best." Yet its unmeasurability bothers me beyond expression. For the longest time I thought my best was almost unachievable. If  I didn't win a race in track and someone tried to comforting me with, "Well, you did your best," in my mind I would say back , "No, not really. I could have trained harder... ran extra laps at practice, ate healthier, got more sleep, I could have done something to get closer to my truly best." I never felt like I put in all I could to get the best time. Before the race or during. The brutal truth is you always recover from a race. Those minutes when you finally get your breath back and your legs stop feeling like jello are the most regret filled minutes of the experience. You have that gnawing feeling that you should have pushed it harder on that final stretch. Sure, it felt like you were wasted while you were facing that head wind, but now you have energy again, you aren't as spent as you remember. 

These aren't just feelings associated with track. In every area I can probably work a little harder. The encouragement of just "doing your best" has turned into an impossible mission to reach my absolute potential, find my "best." Honestly, I don't think I've reached the point where I can do my best, as a runner, student, friend, daughter, or sister. I could work a lot harder in every area of my life. So does that mean I should? Should I spend every waking hour of the rest of my life trying to reach that goal of my "best"? Sorry, but that doesn't sound very fun. I don't think my life would be its "best" if that was how I was living it. So what do we do when this phrase is thrown around? 

The first thing is not to be afraid of doing our best. I know this seems weird seeing as I just dissected and discarded the worth of this phrase, but bear with me. Tonight an elder from my church talked to the youth group and told us if he could tell his younger self anything it would be not to be afraid of doing his best. He said we often fear putting forth our maximum effort because, what happens if we do our best and our best isn't good enough? How do we deal with that? If you don't feel the catastrophic effect of that idea, go back and read it again because that should put some amount of fear into every ego. If we never do our best we can't really fail, because we didn't really try. If we don't come in first it isn't because we weren't good enough, it was because we chose not to be good enough. There is security in never trying to reach full potential, if we never reach we never fall when we aren't tall enough. 

The next thing Mr. Jackson said was, "The effort is ours, the result is God's." Can this phrase just replace "Do your best"? It shouldn't be our best we're focused on anyway; I have been born again into Christ, He is where I find my identity. I don't find my value in the allusive "best I can be" but in Christ. He is the best! He is enough! He is my identity! Yes, I can work harder and, if I do, I will become better. However, I will exhaust myself trying to reach my absolute "best." Rather, I should work not be afraid of my best failing and know that Christ's sufficiency will catch me when I don't reach the standards. All I can do is put forth effort and trust God to bring the right results. Results shaped out of the sincere love of a father who knows the plans He has for me go beyond getting an A on a test and winning a race.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Beauty

A few nights ago my friend and I took a walk with our dogs. We were gone for about two hours and it was one of the best spent two hours of the week. One of the subjects we covered was beauty and what it means to be beautiful. Every time I talk to Emily about this she gives me a much deeper understanding of what beauty really means.

It seems like an ever-present question on girls' minds: what is beauty? It is defined so many ways by so many people; unfortunately, most girls borrow their definition from TV and Pinterest where skinny bodies, clear skin, gorgeous hair, and being followed by men is beautiful. Whether we want it to or not, this definition of beauty has influenced how we see ourselves and others. I am no exception, I am constantly comparing myself to other girls and am painfully aware of my weight and the effect of food on my weight. These kind of thoughts push a lot of girls into unhealthy behavior; both the thoughts and the behavior become addicting. Thankfully, I have a good friend who whips me back to the truth whenever I get too far into these thoughts rather than God's. What she says and how she lives is beneficial to all girls and women.

Before a few weeks ago I did not believe confidence could be beautiful. I had it ingrained into my head that to follow God's call to humility, you had to think yourself ugly and incompetent. Disliking yourself was how you put others ahead. Emily let me know how wrong I was. By hating myself, I was hating God's creation and putting myself on a path to hating His other creations. The thing about finding flaws in yourself is that you will begin to find flaws in other things or grow contempt for the things that don't have flaws. God showed me how truly unhumble I have been. The effort it took to hate myself was effort spent only on me, not on working to meet the needs of others. Instead He has given me two beautiful and confident role models as best friends. 

Emily and Julia are both beautiful, and they both know it. In the One Direction song, "What Makes You Beautiful", beauty is portrayed as not knowing your beauty, these girls showed me how wrong that is. Neither one of these ladies goes around bragging about how beautiful and funny they are. They don't think they are better than everyone else, they are simply comfortable in their own skin. They acknowledge that God made them and called them good (Genesis 1). They simply have confidence. This may be an area where my written words are less sufficient than if I were talking to you verbally, because I think you really just need to spend a day with these girls to see how well they have balanced confidence and humility so that they can serve others instead of wasting time hating something beautiful. 

"Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less." - C.S. Lewis

"I praise you because I am FEARFULLY and WONDERFULLY made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." -Psalm 139:14