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Saturday, May 29, 2010

What I’m Reading Today: Acts 27-28

When I was a teacher in the juvenile corrections system, there was something that set me apart from the other three teachers in our tiny school system. I passionately believed that I could reach each and every student that came through my classroom. The other teachers had long ago accepted the fact that no one human being has the ability to reach every person they encounter.

When I would confront the other teachers about what to me seemed to be their apathy regarding some students, they would say, “You’re just twenty-two now and idealistic. Give it a few more years, and you’ll see.”

As the years passed by and I changed jobs – moving from classroom teacher to health department outreach worker to politician to pastor – that same conviction stayed with me well into my thirties: the belief that I could reach each and every person I encountered. On some level I thought that conviction was what made me extraordinary in the fields in which I worked. Little did I know that conviction was largely an expression of my codependence – for I felt as if I had to reach every person in order for me to feel good about myself. Even one failure caused me to question my self-esteem/self-worth.

It took encountering passages such as today’s passage from Acts before I could begin to get it through my head that no one can reach every human being. In describing Paul’s efforts in Rome, for example, the author(s) of Acts wrote, “Paul talked to them all day, from morning to evening, explaining everything involved in the kingdom of God, and trying to persuade them all about Jesus by pointing out what Moses and the prophets had written about him. Some of them were persuaded by what he said, but others refused to believe a word of it.”

Did Paul let those failures – those individuals who refused to believe a word of it - destroy his sense of confidence and call?

Nope. Instead, Paul shrugged his shoulders and said that the insiders had had their chance and now it was time to make the message available to outsiders. In other words, Paul had a sense of clarity that helped him realize it wasn’t about him. Once he had done everything in his power to be faithful to his call, he could release himself from the outcome and let others be responsible for their actions. This realization allowed him to put some distance between himself and the outcomes of his work and get on with his life.

Perhaps there is at least one area in your life where you have been thinking along the lines of how I thought: areas where you are tempted to let perceived “failures” derail you and call your self-worth/self-esteem into question. If so, draw strength from Paul’s sense of perspective and find a way to let go – drawing strength from the fact that you did as much as you could.

Til next time…

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