It is difficult to express exactly what we mean in a way that others are unlikely to misinterpret since we all come from a different experience and making ourselves clear across that space has challenges. Having studied S. I. Hayakawa many years ago I remember a discussion about the phrase "the ice is hot" which sounds nonsensical unless you are watching a movie about stolen diamonds. So it is no wonder that what we say to one another and what God says to us sometimes gets a bit warped in the process.
This quote of Dr. King's often gets skewed to "be the best there is," which is certainly consistent with the current social perspective, but that is not all what he said. He said something closer to "be the best you can be at whatever your are called to do, which will make you exceptional and you will be honored for that commitment, effort and focus." At least that is what I think he was striving to explain since, as a mighty man of God, he would have been very familiar with this verse: ”In all the work you are given, do the best you can. Work as though you are working for the Lord, not any earthly master." Col 3: 23
We struggle with this concept in our age. Maybe because the sense of a "master builder" whose apprentices became great builders themselves is not so respected today.
But God, who knows exactly where we are going and what we need to get there, places many masters in our path. The better we are at learning from them, the better we will be at the work for which we are created. You know the masters I mean: a father who took time to teach us to trust our instincts, a coach who saw greater skills in us than we could imagine for ourselves, the grandmother who always had time to hear our stories and look into our eyes with love and acceptance, the teacher who insisted we not settle for 2nd best. I also benefited from supervisors and co-workers who shared their experience and perspective generously and the folks I was responsible to teach who taught me much, most importantly about myself and what I needed to work to refine.
Because God sees the ALL, God is clear about what will benefit us over the long-term and generously provides many lessons along the way. God is so generous that when we fail to learn from the lesson, we are given another, and if necessary another opportunity to get it mastered. Of course, I have found each lesson to be a bit more emphatic and uncomfortable until God has my full attention. Unlike even the best human teachers who sometimes wonder if the student is ABLE to master the lesson, God just keeps turning and re-presenting because God knows that we NEED the lesson and that, indeed, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we are ABLE.
So, today, let us thank God that Dr. King directed us to this bit of wisdom and even more let us thank God that God's commitment to us is total, unequivocal and full of love as we learn all we need to know.