Tuesday, April 10, 2007

That !@#$ Dalmatian

The megachurch had their big Easter show Sunday and was reported to have 6000 people show up. I would be lying to you if I told you I wasn’t jealous. Competition and comparison was something that ate at me like a nest of termites in the walls of an old house. I knew they were in there, hidden out of sight to the visitor, but occasionally if I’d lean in close enough, I could hear their destructive movement and gnawing. I don’t know how prevalent competition and comparison really are, because they are two issues not easily discussed among colleagues. Who do you talk about your problem of comparing yourself to the performance of other pastors? Certainly not with the guy you compare yourself to. That’s kinda like a guy asking a girl to forgive him for his lust problem. What’s she supposed to do about it? The counsel I was given over the years all seemed to center around a core belief that results don’t matter, which is usually the source of comparison. The little guy looks at his labor and holds it up against what the big guy is doing. Then the little guy is supposed to simply say it doesn’t matter. I’m just not that spiritual. It does matter what I do. It does matter what fruit I bear. It does matter to what I have to show for my labor. So why does ChristianMan try and talk me out of it? In order to pay my way through seminary, I worked as a gardener for some rich people near our school. I had one lady give me pretty much carte blanche over her yard. I could plant whatever flowers I thought looked good for the season. She even gave me her credit card to purchase the necessary plant material. It was a good gig. Until the day the Dalmatian showed up. Her goofball husband bought an equally deficient puppy for her for Christmas. To cut to the chase, the !@# dog proceeded to tear up everything I ever did in the yard and garden. It frustrated me to no end. I told her “Sheri, you can either have a dog or a garden, not both,” but she didn’t heed my advice. Her reply was to just go buy and plant more. But part of what I loved about the job was to look back on my work and admire its beauty. I took pride in what I did in making her house look well kept, and in doing so, making her very pleased. The dog thwarted this desire, and the job was never the same. I continued to serve her, but the joy was gone. But if that was a ministry job, I would be told that I shouldn’t care whether or not the dog digs up my work. I’d be chided with a statement like, “It’s not about you.” I would be made to feel guilty for taking pride in what I accomplished. So what am I to do with the longing to have my best to offer? How do you turn that off? Even the successful guy can’t revel in his work. I would be willing to bet that at the big megachurch show this weekend, the 6000 sets of ears heard some kind of downplay of all the work that went into getting to that point. I’m not ready to act like results don’t matter. I just don’t want those results to rule over me.


Resa said...

I think recognition of beauty is good and a part of us. We want to offer our best and have others see the glory in it. We also want to be there for glory when others had a part in it's creation. I think Part of the problem is that things don't last. Can we create beauty and be part of things even if they will only last for a bit - kind of like elaborate sand castles.
It often goes back to Ecclesiastes 11 for me and that God has set eternity on our hearts. We get angry and fight when loss or an end comes, we want it to remain whole and glorious forever. I know here that will never be the reality so how will I wage war in a way that I will not be hardened or dwell in the fight against reality. How will I create elaborately and love and know deeply even when the threat of destruction or end is right around the corner.
Then when it is taken away does it really destroy it's worth or take away from our identity of one who creates gloriously? Or is it just the proof? For me that goes back to the humility of believing God sees and rises up in his time. Can I let go of the validation of men? That's pretty hard.
Anyway those are the thoughts you sparked in me, from my current wonderings..

Strider said...

The question I ask is what is success? The reason you don't have a mega church as I read your blog is that you don't want one. I revel in my success. I don't mind telling you because I give you full permission to compare yourself to me so you will feel great. I formed a team of Expats and nationals who have worked for ten years to see two families in the smallest, poorst village in Middle Earth come to faith. Spiritually, I think that God is more excited about that than the 6000 who showed up to be entertained on Easter. These two families are awesome as they demonstrate real faith in one of the darkest most depressing areas on earth. When you and I are standing in the Great Throne Room together I am going to point them out to you- standing so close to the front of the room that we will hardly be able to see them for the glory of our Savior- and I am going to say with great joy, I helped those guys once.
I don't know what you think your greatest accomplishment has been in your life so far but I have a guess that it is something that we have judged to be so insignificant that we might not remember it.
Yeah, the Dalmation tore up the yard. Some unregenerate infiltraters may well get into that great big church and lead them down a path of legalism, or health and wealth deception, or just take your pick. But the King is looking for some faithful men and women to stand with Him on the final day. Anything we can do to aid someone to stand on that day will fill our heavenly accounts for eternity.

Watchman said...


this is why i need to be connected to stories like yours. they keep me grounded and are a good antidote to my disease of comparison.

i'll look forward to meeting your friends from Middle Earth.