Have you ever known anyone who just always seemed to be on the outside – perhaps a kid in your class back in grade school or the guy at the end of the hall in your college dorm. Maybe that was you. It was me in certain circles. I was an awkward fella in high school – not athletic and just smart enough to be considered a nerd. I think a difficult transition to my school in eighth grade got me labeled as an outsider and it stuck throughout high school.
But in college, things were different. I was able to start over and I took advantage of it big time. I played every intramural sport (even spades and chess – yes, they were sports at my school) and won more than I lost. I played on the varsity tennis team, one year on the soccer team and even was an assistant coach for the women’s volleyball team. I was part of one of the more elite majors (very few members) on campus – physics. I was cool. I found confidence in who I was, which helped make friends – the “right” friends this time.
Then Jesus happened. He changed everything – especially my aspiration to be cool. I now wanted to be effective for His Kingdom on a campus that rejected religion and did its best to satisfy each and every one of man’s desires. Rejection was again part of my daily life, but the difference was no matter who rejected me, He wouldn’t. Sure, I didn’t like someone telling me I was a mindless fool for following a God that allowed poverty and Aids and [______], but for whatever reason it was different.
Perhaps it was because I was part of a team being trained to be leaders of what has become an officially recognized organization on campus. I was on a team that saw value in my inclusion and participation. One where I was learning and being invested into with gusto. One where I had immense value to the mission of bringing the Light to my school. One that loved me to help me with my weaknesses rather than ostracize me because of them.
It’s amazing how powerful the words of affirmation from those you respect can be. That’s another topic, but suffice it to say – at that time, it gave me the courage of a lion and the fortitude of an army.
I have been serving my church with my leadership skills as a small group leader for about 10 years after a man looked at me and said, “I think you have what it takes to lead a group – are you interested?” Can you say confidence boost?
The past 6 I have been given leadership responsibility over other leaders after another man said, “I want you on my team because I believe our church and our leaders can learn from you.” Can you say affirmation of self.
Over those six years, I have been trusted with increasing amounts of responsibility and access to some pretty neat conversations at the heart of one of the largest and more influential churches in my state. God was using me to contribute to what He was doing in big ways and it felt natural and my confidence grew tremendously.
Today; however, I find myself back in high school. Rejected. Alone. In the belly of the valley and unsure of the future. I can’t go into the specifics and it really isn’t the point. The point, I’m realizing, is that we are creatures that need continued affirmation of our value to what’s going on and how we fit into what is really important. Furthermore, it isn’t just affirmation from a few, it needs to be felt throughout. If you get a whiff of rejection (real or phantom) from anyone, all of the positive comments are somehow tainted and they lose their power to propel.
My heart is fragile. My confidence is based on results. My significance is based on man’s affirmation. Conclusion: I have a long way to go and the valley has brought to light the truth of it. I’m stuck in the valley right now. At times, I feel petty. Other times, weak. Other times angry. I desire answers with very little hope of getting them.
Thank you God for loving me in the valley – I know you are here with me and I’m sorry that fact isn’t making more difference in the way I feel right now. I pledge to put one foot in front of another and find the courage to listen as you lead the way…