Your child has just come home from school and is waving a piece of paper in front of his face. He excitedly runs towards you in order to present you with his latest work of art. “It’s our family!” he exclaims, bursting with pride. “You see here? That is you and daddy; here is David and here is the dog.” You quizzically look at the picture and ask “And what is that in the top corner?” Your child proudly informs you that it is the sun; and it is purple, because, well, that is how he “likes” it to be.
Beaming with pride, you take the smudged piece of paper and remove two magnets from the front door of the fridge in the kitchen and carefully place your child’s masterpiece in a spot that all can admire. Your child looks up at you, as you place his latest Rembrandt on your Refrigerator of Modern Art (of which you are the sole curator) and begins to smile broadly. He is SO proud that his artwork is on display for all to see. But, perhaps even more importantly, your child has been given the sense that from you, the parent, that he has done something that brings you nachat.
Will this artwork win national acclaim? Will it be featured in Pastel Journal as a cover story? Will your child be on a speaking tour to discuss the nuances of the bold colors or the shape of all of the lines? Not likely; and yet, to you and to him, it IS a masterpiece worthy of admiration and adoration.
I believe that in a metaphorical sense, God has His refrigerator and His magnets, as well. We do Mitzvot all of the time. We, hopefully, are doing them to the best of our abilities. Unfortunately, we don’t always perform the Mitzvah in the best possible way. And yet, we DID try to give it our best shot. Perhaps our mind wandered; perhaps we were interrupted or perhaps a series of other “things” got in the way of our creating a “masterpiece” of a Mitzva.
Never mind…God takes that Mitzvah and looks at it. He may see a mish-mash of a Mitzvah. But, He says to Himself: Look at what effort my child put into this act for ME. Look at the beautiful attempt they all made in trying to keep My commandments. And He takes that Mitzvah, removes a couple of magnets from His refrigerator and places it on His metaphorical fridge.
As He looks at the Mitzvah, that was just performed, and bursting with pride at the heartfelt attempt, He displays it for all of His ministering angels to see and admire. But even more importantly than that: YOU see that He has taken pride in your action, as His child, and it makes you smile that you brought that kind of nachat to Hashem.
No, we should never strive for mediocrity in serving Hashem. But at the same time, we must always recognize that Hashem looks at our effort that we put into performing Mitzvot and is pleased to see that we make that effort, always standing on the sidelines, encouraging us to do a little better each successive time.