We are all just a generation or two from being totally forgotten. Think about it; can you name your great grandfather? I can’t. It is simply a matter of time before this world moves on without us.
This past weekend I helped teach the 1,300 college summer staff at Pine Cove through the staff manual for the very last time. It was bittersweet. The “Pine Cove Way” sessions are a fun way to cast the vision and mission of the ministry to all the staff at the same time.
So there I am on stage, with my wife, at the very end of the two days with all the staff. After spending 20 summers of my life, and 15 years full-time with this ministry, the CEO said some extremely encouraging words about me to everyone. And then…they clapped. It was a standing ovation, actually. And it lasted about 15 seconds.
And just as quickly as it began, it ended.
(This pic was taken from backstage, as one of the sessions began)
A few more announcements were made, some details and instructions were given to everyone of what was happening next, and then everyone left.
I shared with Steph later that night that everyone needs to go through such a powerful moment at some point in their life. It was powerfully encouraging and surprisingly depressing both at the same time.
It doesn’t matter if I was given a plaque, a retirement ring, a new car, a statue of myself, a road named after me…. all of that would at some level feel, well…. hollow.
It’s not that I didn’t care about their clapping. I did. It meant a ton to me. And it’s not that our CEO should have said more about me. What he said was humbling. It’s that none of that can satisfy.
Listen to the words of Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes:
I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.” Ecc 1:14
I left that auditorium that day and have since pinpointed three big takeaways:
1. Focus on being faithful, not famous. We can be lured into thinking that we will achieve infamy someday. In our minds, the world begins to revolve around us, of course, because we are so important and needed. Our focus should be different. We can look at the here and now and see how God is working around us. We ought to consider how our gifts and talents could best be utilized, and then fully offer them right where we are.
Sure, there are people in the past that aren’t easily forgotten. Look at Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, or Elvis Presley. Most people in America could tell you something about them, but not much. Being content, focused on being faithful, sets us free to be who we are, not busy trying to be something greater.
2. Decide who I am trying to please. I don’t know about you, but I love delivering superior results. There is something intoxicating for everyone about pleasing people. It might be pleasing a crowd by giving a great concert, or pleasing a congregation with a great sermon, or pleasing a board of directors with a great annual report.
All of that is fading.
If you are a follower of Jesus, then God is pleased with you. This is because of who you are, not what you do. But because He is pleased with us, that motivates me all the more to want to honor him with my life.
3. Get your mind right. Solomon ends the book of Ecclesiastes this way:
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13
Having a deep, abiding, reverence for God that overflows into a life full of “good works” is precisely what God has designed us for. We ought to get busy doing just that. As I seek to know God deeply, then I should look to serve my wife “like Christ loved the Church” (Eph 5). In so doing, I’ll realize that such a love isn’t possible except by the Holy Spirit’s power through me. Then I am pushed back to abiding in him, and on and on and on….
What would you learn from a similar experience?