“You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.” (Matthew 5:14)
The passage for this week got me thinking about what the term “excellence” should mean as a Christian. We are called to be the salt of the earth, the light to the world, and the city upon a mountain, which can seem like a lot of pressure at first. This can be especially true if you (like myself) have a tendency towards perfectionism. This is a warped form of excellence that can lead to anxiety, self-consciousness, and even burnout if you get overly worried about failing. Of course, failure is going to happen, so it’s unrealistic and even harmful to put that expectation on yourself.
In reality, God isn’t calling us to never fail, that would be an unkind command. And not just because of our brokenness and tendency towards sin, sometimes you can do everything right and it still doesn’t pan out. But as a priest once said in a homily that I heard a few years back, the secret to sainthood is remembering that God calls us to try, not to succeed.
God isn’t a taskmaster with unrealistic expectations. He fully realizes that we are limited. He does ask us to strive for excellence, but He knows that He will need to supplement us with His grace. When we forget that being salt or light to the world or the city on a mountain is dependent on being close to Him and not on our own efforts, that is when we can run into pride or despair. This can be comforting because we realize we aren’t alone as we try to do our best. In fact, God loves using the smallest of His children to do great things to show that all things are possible through Him.
So instead of this passage feeling like a call to “get your act together” or “just try harder”, it’s a reminder that we don’t have to put so much pressure on ourselves and that we can (and should) lean on God as we do what we feel called to do.