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Friday, February 18, 2011

It's a Wonderful Life

One of my favorite movies of all time is "It's a wonderful Life." I am sure there is a psychological reason for that. I am self aware enough to know that I am motivated to 'make a positive difference' in the life's of others. On those days when I feel like I don't matter I can get pretty blue. Letting people down weighs on my heart and soul. I have found it easy to make negative assessments of myself throughout most of my life.

I know that this is not something that I can simply address through thoughts. I have plenty of education in theology and psychology. I know the theories of atonement and mental health which should free me from this gnawing feeling that I just do not measure up.

My guess is this self-revelation will produce a range of reactions. Many people will think it is pointless, some might even have no clue what I am talking about. There is another group, smaller and far less likely to read blogs (especially blogs like this), who are too busy enjoying adventures to ponder such questions. There is, however, a significant number of people with whom this will resonate. Part of this group will think it a bad idea to share such struggles publicly, while most will find it helpful. Those are the people I write for most of the time.

Many of my parishioners read this blog. Several have commented that it has given them insights into my thought that years of interactions had not revealed. I write because I am trying to reach out and draw others deeper into the mysteries of God and faith. I write to challenge, comfort and inspire others whom I can not or will not ever see in our pews at St. Andrews.

Last night something happened that was wonderful and eye opening for me. . This year I was one of three recipients of the PTA Lifetime Achievement Award at Schilling Farms Middle School. It was an honor, but I also know how little I have done. I get credit for what my parish does, and most of the reason I was honored was because of them. But as the presenter introduced me she shared something that really hit me. She told the group that she had met me some months ago when she was part of a group in this year's Leadership Collierville class. My parish is part of the historic tour and I just showed up to do a brief presentation on our current parish. She told the group that she and her husband were challenged and inspired by what I said. She said that as a result he had adopted a local school (in Memphis lots of our schools need real help). He was providing mentoring and financial aid. They are making it a better school. They are also challenging other businesses to adopt schools. It sort of choked me up to hear that.

I guess this sounds like bragging. It isn't meant to be. It really is, for me, a reason to hope. Like I said, most of the time I do not feel especially successful or significant. (And all of the time I know it is not supposed to be about me) But I did want you to know that, like Jimmy Stewart's character in the movies, it is possible that you have had an impact and effected positive things about which you do not know. Can that hope motivate you to keep trying to make a difference? Not to relieve guilt, or earn heaven, or prove to the world you are special. Do it because that is why God made you: To be His gift to the world.

I had no idea that twenty minutes with those people had made any difference at all. Now I know that people like you and me can make a huge difference. I still do not think I deserved the PTA award, but I am so thankful to have learned that a school full of kids in Memphis have had their lives improved by the selflessness of that couple. And it is cool to know I had a small part to play in it.

1 comment:

  1. Jeff,

    I completely "get" what you are saying. As you commented on my blog yesterday, the Holy Spirit seems to be working in both of us in similar ways lately.

    Congratulations on the acknowledgement of the difference you are making in this world. Isn't it wonderful to see the different ways that God uses us imperfect and broken people to shine forth His Goodness?

    I keep thinking about what you wrote yesterday, that Judgment is God showing us who we really are. The challenge is for us to allow ourselves to see the good, and not to focus only on the bad.

    Peace to you. Enjoy your weekend!