Sunday, November 22, 2009

Going for Good

I saw Michael Jackson’s This is It! twice.

Now, I recognize that in this economy you may be saying, “What? Twice? Really?” Let me explain.

It’s not so much that I’m a die-hard Michael Jackson fan. In fact, the first time I saw it was only to be with my two younger sons, and they all but had to drag me. But after seeing it, something about the film touched me. I thought about it for days, hence the second viewing with my sister, who I knew would get the movie the way I did.

What was the impact?

The music was great, of course. I grew up with Michael in the 70’s and early 80’s, and then went through a second round of MJ fever when my sons discovered him in the late 80’s and 90’s. But what hit me about the movie was more than the music; it was watching the man himself, a master at work. From his natural talent as a child, Michael developed his craft, pushed the limits, and was, for many, a genius. But first and foremost he was a man committed to living out his creative core with passion and excellence.

I left the movie feeling profoundly inspired and motivated to excel in my own creative endeavors. I’m not a musician, entertainer, or an artist, but I do have a creative core that longs to find expression. I think we all do. It is part of being made in God’s image. He created and, with joy, declared it good. And deep down, we long to do the same.

When I say creative core I’m not just talking about the arts. I’m talking about any activity where we lose ourselves imagining and inventing ways to develop it, or make it, or write it, or organize it, or promote it, or present it, or assemble it, or plan it . . .

Whatever the “it” is, if the end result is something that was not in existence before, we created it. And if we are passionate and find joy in the creating, we have tapped into our creative core.

But for it to be good takes work.

Even in the biblical creation account, Genesis 2:3 says on the seventh day God “rested from all the work of creating he had done.” Now God would not have been physically tired, so this was probably more about modeling for us. But the point stands. Creating that which is good takes work.

And here lies the rub. We want the good without the labor! We’re usually not that eager to commit to studying, practicing, researching, working with mentors or coaches, failing and trying again, or doing whatever it takes to be good.

This is why people like Michael Jackson are so inspirational. You can’t watch his artistry without an awe-filled sense of what it took him to get there. Remember what Thomas Edison said about genius? It is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. We don’t like to sweat.

Yet, my heart is lifted when I see passion and commitment like Michael’s. How can I dare offer God anything less with the passions, gifts and abilities He’s given to me?

But too often, unfortunately, I’m just not willing to go there.

I’m reminded of a Plaster of Paris sculpture I did in junior high. As other students were finishing, I wanted to be done, too. When I turned mine in, my teacher said she liked what I had done so far, but wanted me to keep working on it.

We had a battle of artists’ wills for awhile, where I would do a little more, only to have her say, “This is coming along great, keep going.”

Finally, I held my ground to being finished, even though I could tell she wanted me to do more.

Now, more than 30 years later, when I look at that sculpture, I see exactly what she saw. I see where I really did stop too soon. It was okay, but not good.

Perhaps back then I needed more inspiration, a rest from it, or maybe I was just too lazy. I don’t know.

But I do know when I see models of passion and commitment today, and resulting fruit that is truly good, my creative core leaps. I want to create; no, I must create, to the best of my ability, that which is good, too. Just like my heavenly Father.


Genesis 1:31
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good…


  1. All I gotta say tams is "That's Exactly Right" hahaha I know you get that =] but Very good tho u finally figured it out hahaha, u had this in u all along becuase u are a perfectionist as well. Do u think that you have become an more effective perfectionnist??

    p.s. Can we leave questions hahaha, o well

  2. Thanks for commenting, TJ! I thought a lot about perfectionism and excellence when writing this post. I think for me, it's about committing to do your best, which won't be perfect. Actually, trying to be perfect get's in the way because it's frustrating and unattainable. And,pefection isn't even what God asks of us! But there is incredible joy in doing the best you can at any point in time. And knowing that it can be even better the next time around!

    What that looks like exactly differs from person to person. Hence, I really like the term "personal best".