“Good. Better. Best.
Never let it rest
until your good is better
and your better is best.”
I doubt that Mrs. Starrett, my high school orchestra conductor, was the first to utter such words, but her continued repetition of them stuck. She reminded us of this before auditions, as we sight read new symphonies, while on tour and leading up to performances. It was a simple standard that she consistently set for anyone she was directing. It inspired us to be one of the best high school symphonies in the nation and convinced even the laziest of all musicians to practice, practice, practice.
My parents had a similar philosophy with grades. Do your best, they would tell me before each test, exam or quiz, and if I brought home what, to them, was not my best, we had a problem. That’s not your best work, they would kindly remind me, but my response was not to be inspired to try harder as often as it was to get angry, annoyed and remind them that I am not my brother.
My brother, you see, did not make being two years behind him in school a desirable position. He got straight As starting when they started handing out grades. He played two sports. He soloed with the symphony. He was involved with student government and the school newspaper. He set test records that weren’t challenged for years. He won every academic award out there. He insisted on attending an Ivy League university and easily accomplished that goal. Teachers loved him. Friends loved him. He was the high school golden boy.
And I was Golden Boy’s Little Sister.
There’s one teacher who even referred to me as such because I’m not sure he ever could remember my first name.
When my parents would encourage me to study or to work harder in school, I fought back. I wasn’t my brother. I wasn’t as smart. I wasn’t as “perfect.” I wasn’t going to get the grades that he got, so they should just drop it. But they didn’t. They made me try harder. Study longer. Read it again.
And they were right. They pushed me to get good grades that weren’t really out of reach. I didn’t graduate valedictorian, like Golden Boy, but my class rank and other accomplishments listed in the yearbook weren’t too shabby. They were always proud and praising me for such things, even if it took a little push to get there.
Do your best.
I didn’t always want to do my best. My best took energy and interest in things that I found rather boring and useless. School came somewhat easy for me, so to get by with good enough grades, would have taken little effort. But that wasn’t my best, which was a problem.
I started reading through the Old Testament again recently to get to know this God who created the world and is master of everything in it. I wanted to know who I was claiming to love and trust and even wrote a blog post about that. This morning, I stared Leviticus. It’s a little repetitive of what I just read in Exodus, and, to be completely honest, it’s a little boring. It starts off with God telling the Israelites how to live now that they had been freed from Egyptian slaverly. It’s like reading a biblical constitution. Not exactly a page-turner. I even wondered, for a moment, why it was bothered to be recorded in such detail. Does God really need us to know all these minor facts about life in the desert a few thousand years ago? Especially now that Jesus came and turned everything upside down?
Yes, I think that He does.
When you read through things like Leviticus – ancient Jewish law that is still practiced today by God’s chosen people, the Israelites – you can’t help but think that God would have said the same things that Mrs. Starrett and my parents did in high school. He wants our best.
He wants our best in everything we do or try to do or think about doing because when we do our best in all these things with the attitude that it’s for Him, we’re like the preschooler running into the arms of parents after creating a mess of construction paper and crayons. It’s a desire to honor and love and return with complete joy who we were fully created to be to our Creator. It’s a beautiful opportunity to align our relationship with Him, hinging on dependency, worship and love, the way things were supposed to be.