A couple Sundays ago, on Father’s Day, my Pastor gave a “Father of the Year” award to a member of the church. I have seen such awards given at other churches, and it is not uncommon that such an achievement is passed down to a senior minister or even a celebrity that has given much of their time (and money) to the place of worship. But on this Sunday, the Pastor called a man up that many of us never really paid attention to before, whom we will call Robert. Robert and his three legs slowly walked down the aisle while the Pastor gave him his due praise, which went something like this:
You all may not know who this man is. He comes in here every Sunday, no matter the weather. He speaks to the people that other people ignore, especially the young men in the streets. And he is constantly asking “how can I help and what do you want me to do?” He is a Father, Grandfather, and a great man of God. One to be honored.
We all applauded because, I mean, that’s the right thing to do. But it was what Robert said that touched me the most. Robert, who had to be at least in his late 60s, but was so Brooklyn-ed out in his clean sneakers and track suit, started wiping his eyes and said:
I have never won anything in my life. (I choked up at that alone). I was never one to always be a Christian. And even when I met Pastor years ago, I was skeptical. But he just kept telling me he was happy to see me that he hoped I would come back. So I did. And once I decided this was home, I made sure I would never abandon my home. Yall may not know, but I am actually dressed like this because I just had abdominal surgery yesterday and I’m really not supposed to be out of bed. But like Pastor said, I do my best to never miss showing up for God. He has never not showed up for me.
I spent the rest of the service thinking about that man, and all the people in our lives that fail to get recognized for being good. We use the word “good” way too freely…to the point that it loses value. But a good thing comes from God (James 1:17), and often we over -celebrate what we think is good, and overlook what is actually of value. We definitely live in a place of self-ordained royalty, and overlook those who live “common,” upright lives.
I read a devotional this morning called “The Ministry of the Unnoticed,” and man, if I could type out the whole page, I would (it comes from Oswald Chamber’s book My Utmost for His Highest). Among the many points that resonated with me, the one that stood out the most was this: “In the Christian life, godly influence is never conscious of itself.” The reality is the people who have impacted my life the most were not the ones who thought they did, but the ones who had no idea of their touch…who were just doing what they did because it was the right thing to do, without any expectation of recognition or applause. So accustomed is this generation to want to surround our resumes and circles with titles of “best this” and “most wonderful that,” that as people of faith, we lose sight of where true influence originates from: God. It is often when I look back, that I recognize how much God stretches me when I fully submit to Him. God’s ministry hasn’t changed: tend to the poor, needy, abandoned. To reach those communities, you have to die to recognition. Why? Because a sick child doesn’t have time to roll out a red carpet. A student with a learning disability does not have the means to get your acts of charity recognized by a leading magazine. Most unsung heroes that influence will never get rewarded for just filling in the everyday gaps of service.
To be clear, an award, in itself, is not prideful–for they can also be of God as well. It is the purposeful positioning oneself to be an “influencer” that dilutes ones true power. When striving to inherit a title, we force the energy we have towards that goal, which means we are only performing enough to be recognized. As a result, our influence is often cut short because we have achieved our goal, instead of achieving the goal of impacting as many people as we can. For those striving for the kingdom, a spirit of meekness and humility is required, which is not easy. This does not mean we will never get noticed. But this does mean that everyday, we must resist the urge to try to be influential, and just walk in the path God has created for us, which has the potential to impact more lives than any human effort we exert (even if no one knows about it).
I am so happy Robert was able to receive an award for just being. He had no idea he was being watched, and did not live to receive any praise. Maybe each of us should thank a Robert today for the influence they have made in our lives. If the Roberts of the world lived all their days to be noticed, many of us wouldn’t be seen today.
Blessed are the poor in spirit…- Matthew 5:3
I actually just found the online version of Chamber’s devotional. Here it is.