Second blog in two days? Yup. There HAS to be something wrong. Or I have too many drafts sitting around and am finishing them off while I try to avoid other more pressing items on my task list…
Over the Easter period I have been thinking a lot about what it means to succeed. Over the past year I have gone from being full time down to working two days a week, due to the fact that it appears I cannot cope with more.
I am exhausted. There is little else I can say, and while my Dr and psychiatrist work together to work out if there is more to this than the mental health bit, I sit here thinking I don’t really know how to cope anymore with feeling so flat. Like a battery that half heartedly attempts to do it’s job then just gives up with a little whine. What I have been wondering though is what does all of this mean for me? Am I a failure because I cannot achieve great things in the world?
This led me to think about the nature of success, which in turn got me to thinking about what I see in the church around me. What do we know about success from the bible? What do we reward as success in those around us when at church?
I found that I don’t really know! I hear one thing yet often see another. It seems that in church, as with anywhere else, wealth, looks and outward confidence are rewarded with recognition, and not having these qualities is often portrayed as failure. I actually don’t think this is intentional. I think it is cultural conditioning. It is really not all that easy to go against the grain and really, not many are any good at it (in other words, don’t seek reward for their Christ like character and therefore defeating the point). When we come across those that are, we inevitably find we are in awe of them (and occasionally try to bring them down).
The bible teaches us again and again that obedience is success, with Easter being the prompt for this post, I shall use it as my example. What was it that made the story of Easter such a resounding success? It was that Christ did what he came to do. He didn’t compromise, he didn’t sway. He wasn’t bothered by what people thought of him, he cared what God thought.
He taught us to give in secret, to love those around us. He taught us to be salt. Salt, doesn’t stand out, alone, on the side. It doesn’t shine brightly. It becomes a part of it’s surroundings and brings about change by being and bringing something contagiously different.
I am writing this wondering how much I have stretched the idea of salt, but not really caring if it is too far. Light is the same. It transforms it’s surroundings by going into every part of them.
The way the world, and so often the church, rewards success is by bringing an individual out of their surroundings and putting them on a pedestal. Creating in an individual an ‘ideal’, and when this ‘ideal’ fails to meet with our ideal we often inform said individual that they have disappointed us.
The problem I have though, is how do we recognise the success the bible teaches us about? If we take a look at someone like the pope, who is seen to be doing something different – humble, modest and generous in the way he lives his life – do we not then end up putting him up on a pedestal anyway? Also, with this same example, he is already very public. Would we notice someone behaving in the same way if they were not the pope, if it was just an individual who lived the same lifestyle without the constant scrutiny of the worlds media?
I guess my biggest issue with pedestals is how far there is to fall. Inevitably if we raise people up, the moment they get it wrong we are devastated. Their failing demonstrates our ability to fail in the same way their success represented something we were capable of.
The bible tells me I am not a failure. I am a brilliant success of God’s own making. He designed me and I have a purpose. It may not be to work a full time week and become a genius at something, well known throughout the world for my vast brain, extraordinary wit and awe inspiring humility. This does not mean that I don’t have a purpose.
I would like to see a church that is inclusive regardless of our world vision failures. I want to see a church that recognises that each and every individual has a gift that is worth shouting about. Problem is, the church is as much of a world failure as me. It is made up of people who have as much baggage as me, who are as weak as me. So I imagine the church will always be putting people on pedestals. Just as much as it will always be working in the darkness to bring light.
The thing with silent success – and here I am talking about the God success, the biblical success, the individuals working away quietly to help and serve their community and be salt and light – is that it is everywhere, we just don’t hear about it.