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?
If God had His way in our churches today, what would happen? I don’t know. I know how He has worked in the past. The trouble is, our education, culture, and refinement stand in the way of the Spirit having His own way.
So true, Kev…so true. You will be missed, but I look forward to seeing where God will take you and the family. You have been a great friend, even through the distance.
Good to hear from you, old friend. Believe it or not, I was just telling my wife and kids about you the other day. During one of our many conversations at Pic n Pac, one of us scribbled your name on one of the picnic tables. (I know, I know…how could we??) Anyway, my boys were looking for the word “snapper.” Unfortunately, it must have been painted over. Glad you are well…
Great Wisdom here. None of these “prizes” for our work will satisfy and might actually do more harm if our thoughts are about how much we deserve them. May we press on to the goal of “well done. good and faithful servant.”
True. In the post I used the word, “intoxicating” on purpose. You are right; working for the praise and applause of men is downright addicting, but leads nowhere.
Been there my brother as you know. You have stated it well. May we focus on Him increasing and we decreasing as John proclaimed. Think of you and pray for you often.
Amen, my friend. You know exactly what I am talking about. We sure appreciate your prayers. I hope we can connect again soon.
It’s the same experience one goes through when they’ve completed a full length Ironman triathlon for the first time.
I’ll have to take your word on that one, Jon. I’ve never been there…
Yep…lots of hard work and training, and months of friends asking you how your training is going, then everyone converges for the final event, and when it’s over…back to business as usual, almost as though it never happened. Then you’r left wondering what to do with all of your free time.
This is what it felt like when I graduated from college. 4 years of building up this graduation experience (6 years in my case [yikes]), thousands of dollars and hours invested, and on graduation day I somehow expect to be pampered and acclaimed by the University. “Look at all the time and effort you put in! We are so happy for you!” Instead, we were herded around in our black gowns and given an envelope– this envelope was for us to place our first donations to the University as alumni! Are you kidding me?!
I’m glad to have an eternal purpose in Christ; if my life had been wrapped up in worldly accomplishment, man! What a let down!
Ouch. Timing is key, right? Asking for your first donation immediately after paying tens of thousands of dollars in tuition isn’t probably the best idea.
So true, Caleb. The eternal purpose we have now isn’t fading. In fact, as we walk with Jesus, our passion behind this purpose becomes greater.
The dead quiet after a standing ovation has a powerful sobering effect.
Well said, Tim.
Thank you for your courage to be obedient to Christs call. I believe the lord is asking me to take huge step of faith in my ministry in baton rouge and I don’t know that I would have ever have stepped out of the boat if it were not men and women like you leading in this way. Thank you and your wife, both whom I don’t know, i have only hearf a small bit of your story, for radically obeying Christ into this new season. He has used you to sharpen, challenge and encourage me. Praying for you in the next step after pine cove.
Thank you, Erica. As I have written before on this blog, don’t be impressed by me. It just seems with this decision of wether to leave Pine Cove it became painfully clear – will I live life trusting myself with my future, or God with it?
After much pain, prayer, conversation with my wife and other Godly people, we FINALLY chose to trust God with it. I hope the next time I encounter the same situation, I’ll choose to trust Him a little quicker.
What a powerful statement. I read Tim Kimmel’s book “Raising Kids for True Greatness” after hearing him speak on one of Pine Cove’s “Drive Time” CD’s for parents. In that book he gives a great example of your point – he witnessed trophies for athletic accomplishments at a major university from many years ago being thrown in a dumpster to make room for the new trophies – no one even remembered these once great athletes.
My sons will be attending their last Pine Cove camp this summer since they will be Seniors next year. They have been attending since the 3rd Grade, so this will be a bitter sweet time. You and Pine Cove have had a major impact on them developing their own faith and for that I thank you and your leadership over such an incredible group of young men and women over the years. What you do and have done is life changing – keep up the good work in the next chapter of your life……
Thank you, Ken. I greatly appreciate your words. I sure hope your sons have learned about our God of grace at PC. His love and acceptance is too good to be true. In my next chapter of life, I hope that I will get more “skilled” at sharing this truth with people.