Monday, April 25, 2011

He's Alright, But He's No David...or Goliath

As a former (and maybe eventually again) minister, I have taught a ton of lessons: Sunday school, home groups, sermons, etc. A liberal estimate might be 1,000. I've taught on Romans, the history of the Church, how the Bible came to be in its current state, "The Gospel According to the Simpsons", and a bunch of other stuff I can't remember. One thing in particular that people who teach the Bible like to do is use "heroes of faith" as object lessons. We love to apply these heroes to our situations. For example, David killed a giant with a slingshot, so you can beat the football team. Or...something like that.

We use Scripture like this all the time. For example, God tells Jeremiah that he has plans for him; plans for good-you know the verse (Jeremiah 29:11). People quote it when things are good, when things are bad, in their sleep, and possibly before eating a Big Mac. Christians love, love, love this verse. And, while it's a perfectly cromulent verse, none of us Jesus lovers ever notice that it's...wait for it...NOT ABOUT US!!! For realz, kidz. Not about us. In context, God is speaking to Jeremiah, specifically about Jeremiah's current situation, and really specifically about something that's going to happen in the future, and really, really specifically about Israel ending their captivity. He's not talking about us. Not even a little.

Oh sure, there's some great encouragement in this passage. In verse 13, there is something that's totally applicable to everyone, ever: that we will find God when we seek Him with all of our heart. And, sure, He may have some great blessings for us. But He may also take them away (Job),  tell you to do something you absolutely don't want to do (Jonah) or allow you to die for Him (Jesus, for starters). So, while God may be wanting to "prosper" you in some way, He also may not. And you need to be alright with that.

It's good for us to know that we are not Jeremiah. We're also not Joseph, David, Jacob, John (or John the Baptist, thank goodness!). We like to use Bible stories as life application, and insert ourselves into the situations of those great followers of the God of Israel. And while we can, in a general way, be encouraged by how God was faithful, and take comfort in that faithfulness, we must understand who we really are. And who we really are, are the multitudes.

Let me start by saying you may not be a card-carrying member of "the multitudes". You might be a big deal: you might be a dream interpreter, or a king of some ilk. You could be a guy sent to kill a king (especially a fat one), or blow some killer horn while an army falls. You may end up being "a great nation", through whom all of God's people emanate. But, you're probably not. And, chances are, if you're reading my blog, you really aren't.

God may have some big thing for you to do, but remember this: we read (and subsequently talk about) all the big wigs of Scripture. We rarely hear about, and even more rarely talk about, "the multitudes", the people on the sidelines who believed in God, lived Godly lives, but never lived out any headlines that made the Israel Evening Gazette, otherwise known as the Old Testament. You are probably not a prophet; you are probably one of the unmentioned people who gave the prophet water when he was thirsty and disheveled. You are probably not an apostle, but, if you're lucky, you might be a Joseph of Arimathea. And you need to be okay with that.

There's a scene in "A Christmas Story" where Ralphie, the main character, narrates the pecking order in grade school: you're either a bully, a "toady" or one of the nameless rabble. And that is my point: not everyone can be Jeremiah or Joseph. In fact, most people, considering the odds alone, simply can't. Consider for a moment that you might be one of the nameless rabble, a member of the multitude, and let that sink in. And then understand that even though you most likely are one, that God will still do something with you. But it probably won't end up in the Bible.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Rejected

You can't help but feel a little rejected...

Applying for nearly 100 churches, and getting a rejection from 99 of them. It sounds like a parable:
"And it will be like that in the last days: there was a man who applied for one hundred jobs, and was not rejected by only one. Will he not take the one, and forget about the others?" 

Church is a funny thing. And I don't mean it like Chonda Pierce or Father Ted mean it. I mean "funny" as in "strange" or "confusing". It's "funny" to me because, even though I have more experience than I've ever had for any job, and more qualifications than I've ever had, I'm apparently virtually unemployable. I recounted my experience of being rejected for a part-time prayer counselor for CBN in an earlier post, and to sit along side that experience on my mantle filled with badges of indistinction are the following:

1. I've been making a point to sometimes ask why a church takes me out of the running for a position. One such correspondence was two sentences:  "We have a highly developed program. From your (video) clips I didn't feel like your guitar playing or singing are sufficient for you to come in and lead our program." I suppose you could say a lot of negative things about me, but this? Dude. I mean...DUDE! I respectfully disagree, sir.

2. A month after receiving a rejection e-mail from a church, I received another correspondence: news of who they did hire! So, after being told I wasn't good enough, I got to see who was. I don't think I've ever had any job I've applied for tell me who they hired, unless it was me. They always tell you if it's you, at least in my experience. :)

3. The litany of phrases that all say the same thing: you are not good enough for us, like the following:

"We are in the final stages of conversation with our top candidate."
And yet, through the miracle of the interwebs, your ad is still posted EVERYWHERE!

"Our needs are different from your gifts and abilities — and this is much more a statement about us than about you."
Yes, but what is that statement?

"We will no longer be considering you for this position."
But you were for a while, right? So that means I'm not a total loser. Right? RIGHT?

"The Lord is not leading us to consider you for the position that we are trying to fill."
Fair enough. Can't argue with God, I suppose.

So...yeah. Sometimes a guy needs to take a hint. I spent a lot of time in ministry being called "young", now I'm pretty sure I'm too old, at least for worship ministry. If I had just applied during that six week window when I was neither, I'd have the job of my dreams right now. That being, of course, fry cook...on the moon.