Good at This

“I am good at this!” That’s what I find myself saying sometimes when I finish a curriculum-writing project. It’s not vanity, really. God gave me a gift for this. When I get in the groove, it all hangs together really well. I can’t help myself from saying, “I am good at this!”

A couple of days ago, I finished a big project. This time, I didn’t feel inclined to speak those words.

This time, I let my deadline creep up on me. In fact, I let my deadline creep past me. Having written for this editor for a long time, I knew that she had a healthy buffer built into the schedule. It wouldn’t be a big deal. Still, I needed to get it done. At the top of the week, I set myself a series of sub-tasks: “Get 1/5 of the work written.” I spread the remaining work over the coming five days.

Day by day, I got my tasks accomplished, but it felt each time more like washing the dishes or mowing the grass than exercising my God-given gifts. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t turn in junk, but when, at the end of the fourth of those five days, I decided to press forward and proofread the whole package, having finished it a day early, I wasn’t overly impressed with what I found. Had I said anything, it would have been, “I am competent at this!”

Do I really want to be just competent at anything that I do? Doesn’t Paul tell us,

Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.–Colossians 3:23-24

Reviewing my now-submitted writing, should I feel ashamed, contact the editor and say, “Don’t start processing that yet. I need to make it better”? Let me just confess that I’m not going to do that, but is that my natural laziness talking or is it acceptable that my work this time is just competent?

Although I don’t really have a scriptural argument to support this, I am going to suggest that competent is okay some of the time. When I wash dishes or mow the grass, isn’t competent enough? I think it is.

Our problem in serving God comes when we allow the bar for competent to continue to drop. It’s when our vibrant prayer life turns into a perfunctory one and then into a mere nod in the direction of prayer. It’s when my teaching of children goes from enthusiastic excellence past a studied march through the materials and settling into a “good-enough” case of winging it.

I’m going to suggest that my competent curriculum this time is okay, but I pray that God will never allow me to miss having that sense of “I am good at this!”