Before I go, I just want to say you were fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. And you know what? So was I! — Ninth Doctor
There is no greatness where there is no simplicity, goodness, and truth — Leo Tolstoy
With great power comes great responsibility — Uncle Ben, The Amazing Spiderman
Do a search for quotes about greatness. Go ahead. I dare you. Or even better, try to remember a few, whether they be from your favorite books, movies, plays, or best yet, from your own life. Think about the context of these quotes. Think about their implications, their demands, their expected sacrifices. In terms of things said to you about your own greatness think about this: who said it to you? Was it someone you trusted, or a complete stranger? Was it after you had done something fantastic, or was it after a heartbreaking failure? Did you look them in the eyes? What did you see? What did you feel?
How do you feel now? Do you feel great?
Recently, I was talking with a friend about our current educational system. Kids finish high school at 18, are expected to go right into college (unless they're going right into military service, which is perceived as more than admirable), and by 22, assuming they've lived up to "our" 4-year timetable, they graduate and enter the workforce. But we all know the job market and the economy right now. Kids are graduating with degrees thrust upon them with a side-helping of student loan debt enough to break anyone's back. And they aren't accomplishing greatness, not the kind that will make headlines.
Sure, there are some prodigies who will go on to change the face of politics and economics and science and medicine and so forth. But what about the rest? What are we doing to help them understand their own greatness?
In a month's time, I will move to Ohio to work at the Cleveland Clinic as a resident chaplain. It really wasn't until I started telling people that I was going to be at the Cleveland Clinic that I understood just what kind of hospital I would call home for the next year. I stopped back in at Rush to say hi to some of my former colleagues, and upon telling them what was next for me, received sighs of excitement and expectation that I'd come back and share what I learned with them. Others told me how "great" of a chaplain I would be after studying at such a prestigious institution. Conversation after conversation, I could feel the pressure piling up. I began to experience less and less pride for what I had already accomplished and more and more expectation of who I was to become, what I was to do!
And I started thinking about my friends, my colleagues, and the countless strangers around me. We just passed the first of July, which, for many of my friends, marked the beginning of brand new appointments. Many of them are first time pastors. Some are associates stepping under the tutelage of skilled senior pastors. Others are senior pastors themselves about to embark upon the new adventure of "running" a church. Many will be expected to start new programs, grow membership, head up capital campaigns, not to mention the weekly tasks of meetings, sermon writing, hospital visitations, and, well, the list doesn't stop.
Consider this a post for not only my friends but for anyone feeling the pressure of outside expectations: pressures to perform, to excel, to exceed expectations. I want you to hear this, and if you need to, I want you to read it over and over, day in and day out...
...you are already great, and more than that, you are already loved...
Sure you have to deal with power systems and struggles and politics and bureaucracies, but don't ever let those battles make you feel less than. Remember who you are and whose you are. Don't stop trying to be better, but you are more than what you do, what you accomplish.
photo credit: Eddie via Flickr