My other job – besides minister – is teaching math to high-schoolers. As the last school year drew to a close, a few of them indulged me by asking that I sign their yearbooks. “All my best, Ms. Raffety,” I closed several of the entries — sincerely, but still professionally, I hope.
Those words still sick with me. Who, in our lives, really gets our best? Is it our significant other, sibling, children, co-workers, friends? Is it God? Is it a perfect stranger on the street? There is a popular contemporary expression (that frustrates all math teachers) about “giving 110%,” but if everyone consistently gave their best, well, we wouldn’t need the expression then, now would we? The Bible argues that everything we do deserves our best, our all, because we are working for the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24). As Christians, we are often encouraged to work and to act as if we are directly serving God rather than people. And yet, there exists the expression “we are only human” — we all need time to rest, recharge, rejuvenate so we really can be at our best for others and for God. But down time isn’t the same as not being at our best. Rest isn’t equivalent with idle gossip and talk, recharging should not be synonymous with vice and rejuvenating is all restoration of energy and passion for life — not sucking energy away from others.
The closing of “all my best” implies the verb “to give.” And it is not that giving our best is impossible or improbable, but it is difficult to sustain. It is challenging to give our best to each and everyone in our lives on a consistent basis. Perhaps the key to consistent success is to consider the school year once more.
As I penned those words in the yearbooks of my students, we were on the brink of summer — the time for rest, relaxation, rejuvenation. In academia, there are built-in breaks to recharge so that everyone can return ready to work, to give their best. There is no need to recognize when one needs a break, because the breaks are built in. In life, we have to be much more vigilant, especially as adults. We watch Jesus monitor himself. He takes breaks – to rest, to eat, to pray, to be alone. Our humanity dictates that we need that downtime to be at our best, but the world would like us to think otherwise. The world would wants us to buy into the busyness, the overtime, the working from home on our day off. But when we give to these things, the ability to be at our best slips away. We fall short. We complain, we cut corners and we sacrifice time with people we care about because we are overworked. We can’t give our best because we have nothing suitable left to give.
The pieces of God within each of us are what others see when we are at our best. And, we make space for God in our lives when we slow down and recharge. “All my best” is never enough, but the Spirit working through me is the best me I can offer, and whatever the company, we should be content with nothing less. Take some time today to rest, recharge, re-energize so you can give all your best:
Create for me a pure heart, O God!
Renew a resolute spirit within me!
Do not reject me!
Do not take your Holy Spirit away from me!
Let me again experience the joy of your deliverance!
Sustain me by giving me the desire to obey!
Then I will teach rebels your merciful ways, and sinners will turn to you. (Psalm 51:10-13, NET)
JULIE RAFFETY serves as the pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Franklin, New Jersey. Julie is a violinist, aspiring writer, snowboarder, runner, identical twin and crazy about popcorn.