I have an admission to make. I have a particular personality flaw which at times has been a great asset to my development as a person and minister. This same flaw has also at the same time prevented me from seeing value in myself and the things I accomplish.
I often put too much stock in being recognized for achievements, or give power to awards, or allow other’s admiration or kind words to influence my mood. I allow these tangible things give meaning to what I do and accomplish.
At a basic level, my sense of worth gets wrapped up in what others think of me. This often leaves me with a sense of being alone. An example of what I mean:
Every year my Seminary had an awards ceremony in the Spring. As the academic year was heading to a close, we celebrated the year through honoring students and staff who went above and
beyond the call to scholarship. The work these people did was exceptional and needed to be recognized. Or at least, that was the party line explanation for the awards (another explanation is that people gave money for awards and the school was required to honor it, but that’s another thing).
For me, though, these awards were excruciating. Every year I sat in the pews of the chapel waiting for some vindication to come my way, some semblance of recognition for the hard work I put in that year, but it never came.
Don’t get me wrong, I was generally happy for those persons who won awards though there were some head scratchers as with any awards show (I’m looking at you Gladiator winner of the Best Picture award at the 2000 Academy Awards). My wife Hannah even won two last year! How could I not be happy for her?
But every time I left that Chapel after the Spring Awards Program (I can’t remember its official name, so I’m making it that), I always left in a worse mood than when I came in (save for my last year, which is another story for another time.) I never won an award. Never. Not once. Not a Faculty Book award where a professor picks a student, nor a named Award, nor a preaching Fellowship. Nada.
And you know how that left me feeling? Utterly and completely rejected. I couldn’t shake the feeling that somehow I, me, my core, my ministry, my intelligence, my hard work, everything that makes me me was rejected, spurned, forsaken.
I have to think I’m not the only one who feels this way at times. I think it’s more common than I know.
I mean, from the very beginning, Jesus’ knew what it was like to have people who tried to cast him off. He knew the feeling I was having, the feeling of being rejected and alone.
Maybe that’s the place where I, where we, need to start: Christ.
Let’s start there together this Sunday. See you in worship.