‘Tis the season here on the Africa Mercy; the halls have been decked and the garland hung and snowflakes are pasted on the inside of windows where just outside the sweltering heat of the southern hemisphere summer reflects off the sand and the palm trees.
Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent; our regular Sunday night service was a beautiful opening to a beautiful season, with a mélange of carols and words and candles and accents and languages and traditions all rolled up into this crazy wonderful community I get to call home.
The first song was a familiar one; sung multiple times every year for each of my thirty-four Christmases I am sure. The Little Drummer Boy, pa rum pum pum pum. It was sung beautifully with some accompanying musicians and the room was lively and you could feel the excitement in the air. As we were singing, I was captured by these lines:
I played my best for Him… Then He smiled at me.
I don’t know the real story behind the song and I don’t really need to. The words are still powerful. I imagine this little boy banging on a handmade drum in a barn. I don’t know a lot of famous drummers either, but for the sake of analogy or allegory or metaphor (not sure which this is), let’s replace drum with cello.
This little kid did not play like Yo-Yo Ma.
Or replace it with piano.
His performance was not rivaling Chopin or Mozart or even Jim Brickman.
Or maybe opera singing.
He was not blowing Andrea Boccelli out of the water right there in that barn.
So whatever the equivalent of those brilliant musicians is in the drumming world, this kid was not them. I am sure he played well. I am sure he put his entire heart into the performance. I am also sure there was probably a miss-hit or two (whatever the drumming equivalent is of a wrong note) and he was technically good but not blow me out of the water amazing.
But he gave his best. And God incarnate smiled at him.
He does the same for us.
Right now I’m not functioning at 100%. It’s been a hard season and a demanding season and I’ve found myself teetering on the edge of burnout. So the option was to scale back a bit or to go home. Since I really don’t believe it is time to go home, I’ve scaled back a bit. For a short season. Because functioning at 75% of normal is better than not functioning at all. My perfectionistic passionate side hates that. I tend to be a woman of extremes; if I can’t do something excellent I don’t want to do it at all. (and usually, in my head, excellent = perfect) But God reminded me, in that little song on Sunday night, that He smiles at our best. He blesses our best. Excellence does not mean perfect. Excellence means our best.
He’s not expecting me to play like Yo-Yo Ma or Chopin. He’s not expecting me to be as productive as that superhuman coworker with the incredible capacity. He’s not expecting me to be as social or as orderly or as seemingly put together as anyone else. He’s not expecting you to have the most beautiful house decorations or the most perfect party or the picture postcard family Christmas experience. That’s where comparison steals joy. He’s expecting me to play like me and you to play like you. That’s our best. And He smiles at that.
He’s smiling at me, when 75% of normal is my best. He’s smiling when I hit a wrong note or cry or pursue truth and joy and life to the full. My best isn’t perfection. My best is putting one foot in front of the other and trying to honor God with my life. Sometimes that is long work days. Sometimes that is sleeping extra late. Sometimes it is sunset dinners with friends. All of it is unto the Lord and all of it is holy.
And He smiles.
May we all see and believe He smiles upon us in this season of Advent; a season of hope, of promises fulfilled, of God around us and among us and within us.
Pa rum pum pum pum.