When I started seminary in 2007, my professor shocked me. He started the first day of the first class with this warning: “Some of you will not get an A in this class, and that will be a sin because it will mean that you didn’t take the class material seriously or work heartily as for the Lord. For those of you who will fall into this category, be warned.” I am an excellent straight-A student and I scoffed at this warning. This would not be my lot.
Yet, my professor continued, “Some of you will get an A in this class and that too will be a sin because it will mean that you neglected something more worthy in order to give time to this class.”
*Stab of poignant truth! * *gasp* (Imagine my heart doing a Shakespearean level death speech)
That was me.
I would almost always choose school and neglect worship, personal quiet times, community, service, or caring for others. I value my studiousness and it outranked so everything else for much of my life.
But since I am an eternal graduate student (going on year eight…), I am hoping to change my priorities and sometimes I practice worshipful mediocrity. This does not mean that I worship the Lord in a mediocre fashion! That would not be holy, honoring, or appropriately awe-inducing. He is worthy of all my worship. Rather, I perform other tasks with a level of mediocrity to allow space for worship.
I practiced this new balance this week as I turned in an assignment for class. It was good, but not my best. I estimate I will get a B+ on this assignment. I could have easily put more research into it. Found three more sources. Re-read my paper and honed a few sentences. And basically spent two more hours on this assignment to change my B+ to an A+. But I made the decision that I could spend these two hours differently. I could talk to my roommate, go for a walk, read scripture, pray, prepare for Sunday School, or just rest and remind myself that the world does not depend on my efforts continually. I also could have “saved” two hours from my school assignment just to squander them with mindless phone scrolling or frustration when I received my grade. The mediocre work wasn’t the win, what I did with my newly found time was what made it worshipful.
My time and energy are finite. It takes immense wisdom to choose the best yes for my limited resources. My professor’s first day speech has stuck with me more than a decade later. School is important. I want to complete it well, and still dedicate oodles and oodles of time toward it. But sometimes, mediocre work is the right choice. Intentional mediocrity reminds me that I am worthy no matter my grades and that I should spend my time and energy on the most important things, which isn’t always my discussion board post!
Where do you choose mediocrity and what do you put your energy toward instead?