Nothing could prepare my heart for what was coming.
I sat in the award ceremony, Friday night at Annual Conference. There were several awards before ours. As I heard each I was celebrating them, I can “rejoice with those who rejoice,” but feeling like I didn’t deserve the one coming for us. Strange contradiction of emotion. Unfinished business of my own heart.
It reminded me why I don’t like award ceremonies in general, for I sit there feeling like I ought to be more than I am, accomplish more than I have, become significant by receiving a similar award. My heart travels the well-worn path to shame with ease, even after years of seeking to teach it other ways.
But then my DS, Erin Martin, stood and read her statement for our “One Matters Discipleship Award.” She read:
“Discipleship matters at Westside UMC. Whether it is through engaging youth in an intensive 11-month confirmation process that leads youth, not simply to membership, but to Profession of Faith and a lifetime of discipleship. Whether it is through a Bible Basics class taught by the Westside Lay Leader that leads people to growth and a calling forth of leadership. Whether it is through “Simply the Story,” a twice a month model of scriptural storytelling, that leads people beyond memorization into application of scripture as they internalize and tell others the stories of God. Discipleship matters at Westside UMC because it permeates everything they do. There is simply the expectation of growth as a fundamental part of their life together.”
“What is more is that this Fall, Westside is corporately going on a journey. Asking themselves in worship and in study, “Where are we as disciples?” Together, they will explore 7 different places of growth and encourage one another to move from being an earner to an heir, as they grow in their trust in God, from being self-hearted to being soft-hearted, as they grow in obedience, from isolation to community, as they grow in relating, from being consumers to producers, as they grow in service, from being charitable to extravagant as they grow in giving. And finally moving from being travelers to guides as they grow in discipleship.”
“It will be a holistic approach, a journey that will continue to provoke, and stimulate and undergird the on-going reality of continued spiritual growth in Westside’s approach to discipleship.”
I listened to what she read. It was just a true description of us at Westside. It is who we are. We are simply walking out discipleship intentionally, day by day, week by week. Karen leaned over and whispered, “You hear it? It’s all true, what she’s reading. It’s all true.” I did, and it was. Powerful what God can do through truth. I received it, so grateful for the affirmation of many. And I got to “receive it” again and again as others simply said “congratulations!” to me for the church’s work, and I got to say “Thank you,” again.
Then, on Father’s Day, during dinner, we were sharing a bit around this theme of the award, and Grace, one of our four truth-tellers, said, “Dad, awards and achievement mean much to you, but you need to constantly remind your heart that it is not in the achievement of numbers nor awards that life is found. You are enough, just as you are. And who you are is achieving incredible things in many lives, because of being you. These things may not garner any earthly credits or awards, but a difference is being made eternally.” Grace reminded me of this:
A woman had come up to me at Annual Conference, sharing a memory from 20 years back, when I had prayed for her during a praise and prayer time at Annual Conference. “That day God used your prayer to speak powerfully to me. You prayed for areas of my life you couldn’t have known about, because you and I had just barely met, and nailed several specifics on the head. That prayer changed my life.”
I don’t know what prompted her to say that, at this Annual Conference, but it all got woven together into the same tapestry of awards.
God is doing things far and beyond what anyone sees, or especially, what I see. And much of what God accomplishes through my life or anyone’s life is not achieved through “trying” but by belonging to the One who flows through us to change this world. Like Grace reminded me, who I am makes the difference. And like the magnificence of God’s work in creation, placing glorious color before majestic mountains, so you and I are beautiful in His tapestry.