Discovering what ‘my best’ means
Every year I have to force myself to refrain from playing Christmas music until the first of November. I love, love, love Christmas music. It is fun and cheesy and familiar, and something about it feels like home.
Because I love it so much, I have many Christmas music CDs. I’ve ripped all the music onto my computer for home listening, so I leave the discs in the car; they are especially good for long drives.
Speaking of long drives, last week on Thanksgiving day, as I was headed to my parents’ house, I listened to Amy Grant’s “Home for Christmas” CD, then Jessica Simpson’s “Rejoyce: The Christmas Album.” The Jessica Simpson disc is about as cheesy as they come, and much of the singing is not that great. But I owe it to all my Christmas CDs to play them at least once during November or December.
One of the songs on Jessica Simpson’s album is “The Little Drummer Boy,” a duet with her sister Ashlee Simpson, who is well known for lip synching on “Saturday Night Live” in 2004. I have great taste in music, don’t I? Anyway, what struck me about “The Little Drummer Boy” that day were the lyrics, especially these:
Little baby, I am a poor boy too.
I have no gift to bring that’s fit to give a king.
Shall I play for you?
The ox and lamb kept time.
I played my drum for him.
I played my best for him.
Then he smiled at me, me and my drum.
You may’ve noticed I took out all the pa rum pum pum pums, so you could really focus on the lyrics. Picture it – me driving, by myself in the front seat, with my two children in the back, singing along with the Simpson sisters’ nasaly, yet breathy voices. I honed in on those lyrics and listened to the story of two poor boys – one old enough to play a drum, the other a baby king, born to save the world. The little drummer has “no gift that’s fit to give a king.” But he can play that drum. So he plays it, and he plays his best. Then, THEN, the miraculous happens: the baby king smiles. He’s a newborn, but he smiles at the sweet, little drummer boy. Not just at the boy, though. He smiles at both the boy and his drum.
For all my theology friends out there, I realize that this story is not from the Bible. Yes, it is fiction. But there is truth in it too. That’s the thing about fiction. Even though it’s a story, we see others and ourselves in it. That’s what great storytelling does. It pulls us in and makes us feel understood. Less alone, more loved. So even though that little drummer boy wasn’t really at the stable in the hours after Jesus’ birth, I believe the metaphor of them is still true.
And during that drive on Thanksgiving day, it was like I was hearing those words for the first time. Tears welled up in my eyes and streamed down my cheeks as I was reminded that God loves our best, whatever that means for each of us. He doesn’t require us to strive and strive and strive in order to please him. He accepts our best and smiles at us.
In the week since that revelation in the car, I’ve been thinking a lot about that word “best.” At the start of the current school year, I attended a meeting Elliot’s first-grade teacher hosted for all her students’ parents. She talked a lot about how she expects her students to do their best. At first, I thought, isn’t that just a nice way of letting children skate by? “They are 6-year-olds, after all,” she said. It was an excellent point. It reminded me that, many times, not only am I too hard on myself, but I’m also too hard on Elliot. What Elliot’s teacher was really saying was that “best” is different for everyone. Not earth-shattering news, I realize, especially for educators.
The challenge for me is discovering what my best means. In all my new fitness adventures, I wonder if I’m doing my best. Like when the Spinning instructor tells us we should be at 100 RPMs, and I look at my screen and see I’m at 90. Or like when she says to add resistance and I don’t do it because I feel like my legs can’t take anymore. Am I doing my best? Or am I being a wuss?
And then there’s the super mom issue, how I wish I could be better at mothering. I have accepted that my children will forever be deprived because I don’t do craft or art projects with them at home. But what about every other area where I am definitely not doing my best? Cleaning. Organizing. Meal planning and cooking. Christmas decorating and baking. Praying. Being patient. The list can go on and on. I constantly feel like I am never doing my best; instead, I am half-heartedly swimming – or barely treading – through life.
But you know what I love about the little drummer boy? He came to Jesus with one thing. One drum. He didn’t worry about learning the trumpet or the lyre. He didn’t build elaborate block towers to present to Jesus. He didn’t frame his finger painting masterpieces. No. All he had was that drum, so he got to business. And he nailed it. And Jesus smiled. Not because the little drummer was perfect, but because he did his best.
The little drummer boy gave Jesus his all, much like the widow in Luke 21:1-4: “As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘Truly I tell you,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’”
While the world is telling me to be rich, especially during the holiday season with sales and gifts and cards and all the excess, I really want to be poor, like the drummer boy and the widow. They have taught me that when I have less, I can actually do more. Maybe I will finally figure out what it means to do my best.
Originally published on ovparent.com.