September 30, 2007

Do your best.

In Meeting for Worship this First Day morning, I found myself resting on two phrases:

Yes, I hear you.


Did you do your best?
The first phrase, as I understand how I received it today, is almost like the answer to the popular joke, "God always answers your prayers. Sometimes the answer is No."

In this case, though, my own sense is that Yes, I hear you is the reply we are given when we wonder if God is really listening:

"God, do you know how much anguish this situation is causing me right now?"

"God, can't you do anything about what is going on in the world/in our neighborhood/with my family?"
Yes, I hear you.
It's not meant to be a cold, thoughtless retort with a hidden subtext of "Get outta my way, you speck of dust." It's truly meant to be a compassionate response:
Yes, I hear you... and I struggle with you in your pain; I weep with you in your struggle...
The second phrase, Did you do your best? is a question I once heard a Friend lift up.

The Friend offered it as a way to nurture the children among us--and to nurture one another--whether they (we) are preparing for a test in school or are auditioning for a play. There is much more significance to the question Did you do your best? than there is to the better known, somewhat empty gesture of uttering, "Well, good luck."

For one thing, the question Did you do your best? invites us to look inward and ask ourselves if in fact we did our best. The person asking the question doesn't really need to know the answer, but the person who hears the question will quickly recognize the truthful reply.

Sometimes I wonder if God simply wants us to ask ourselves, Did I do my best? Was I faithful...? If we know we didn't do our best, if we know we weren't in fact faithful, we will have the consequence of living with that knowledge... and the opportunity to do something about it when we have a chance.



Friendly Mama said...

Thank you for writing this. "Did you do your best" is simple and obvious but easily overlooked. I will carry this question with me.
Mary Linda

Heather Madrone said...

Hi Liz,

Great post.

I've been struggling with an issue in my Meeting this summer. I spoke about it at some length during my Quaker mid-life women's support group last week. One of the women asked me whether I thought I'd acted with integrity.

"Yes!" burst out of me. Whatever I struggle with, it's not whether I did the the best I could or whether I acted according to my guidance. I did as I was led, but the situation did not resolve beautifully as a result. Someone else might have done better.

It is a comfort to know that I did what as I was asked to do, as well as I could do it. I'm still not happy that the situation happened, or how it seems to have turned out, but I'm not spending so much time second-guessing myself as I was.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a "nice" version of a message I recieved several years ago.


I guess that you are a better listener or maybe not as good a whinner as I am.

I am very grateful for how I am being allowed to kinda gracefully mature spiritually.


Liz Opp said...

Friendly Mama --

Thanks for dropping by again. Obviously the question "Did you do your best?" is also one that has stayed with me over the years...

I was enjoying sinking into the question during worship, wondering why it was so present to me for a good chunk of time at meeting that morning, so I figured I ought to pass it along.

Heather -

It's a shame that our own "best effort"--including acting with integrity--doesn't automatically make a difficult situation turn out perfectly.

If I understand you right, you also seem to point to a (slight?) distinction between acting with integrity, being faithful to a leading, and doing your best.

To me, these three are interconnected... interdependent. I personally can't seem to do one without doing the others, with a possible exception for faithfulness to a leading, since not all of my actions grow out of a sense of leading.

But when I do act out of a sense of leading, there usually is, concurrently, a great deal of personal integrity and a striving to do my best in being faithful.

Hope that makes sense, but I wonder if you have more to say about those three pieces: faithfulness, integrity, and doing our best...?


Liz Opp said...


Glad to see you again here. ...Don't get me wrong: there are times when God is much sterner with me than what is conveyed in "Yes, I hear you."

But how I experience God's sternness is by being given more and more practice with a "lesson" until I "get it right," rather than with an insistent "Shut up and listen!"

Maybe God knows what works for each of us and speaks to us in the language--and in the tone of voice--we each need to hear!