Advent Reflection #13, 2016

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Matthew 11:16-19

“But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
The attempt to make everyone happy is a fool’s errand. I learned long ago that ministry can’t simply be about meeting needs, or life will turn into an endless roller coaster of drama, heartache, and disappointment. This is not to say that I want to disappoint people, though. Certainly I want people to be satisfied, happy , and healthy. If I’m able to help in that process, terrific! But making people happy, and meeting their needs (perceived or real) is not and can not be my primary goal in ministry. Instead, I have to be who God has made me to be, and hopefully be that for others. (A focus on serving others is not the same as trying to make everyone happy.) For example, as a pastor I teach about Scripture using my education, pastoral training, and general life experiences. I will do so in a way that will be very satisfying and helpful to many, and yet others simply won’t click with me. I’m too different from the last pastor – or too similar! I’m too loud – or too quiet! I dress too flashy – or too casually! I have too strong an accent – or I’m lacking the proper accent needed for credibility with locals! The list could go on and on. Every decision I make, every teaching point I make, everything I do will make some happy and others unhappy. This is just how it is. Leaders must have or develop thick skin.
The people didn’t seem to like John the Baptist because he was so ascetic that he refused to eat, drink, and dance with them. On the other hand, the people didn’t seem to like Jesus because he ate and drank too much, and hung out with sinners! Jesus is “shooting straight” with the people here, telling it as it is. He understands, and is confident in himself, ending with, “wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” In other words, time will tell the worth and importance of both men in their own right.
Life is no different than ministry. You can’t please everyone. You can’t make everyone happy. The more you try, the more you’ll fail and the more miserable you’ll be. You must accept this, or else every step of your life, every choice you make, every action will be crippling. What you can be is yourself. The self God made you to be. The self made in God’s image, created in love, existing in human community, for the sake of others. You can (and should) make helping and caring for others one of your primary life goals. We were made for community, we exist in community, and it truly is better to give than to receive. However, you’ll have to do this as you, and not as someone else, trying desperately to please everyone if you’re to succeed at all, and not ruin your life in the process! Finally, this is not an excuse to hide behind your personality and not help others. The many personality tests out there can set us up for failure, if they lead us to believe that we are only ______ (ENFT, Sanguine, Teamwork, Blue, or whatever classification your test uses!) and thus we can never act differently. Such tests are very helpful in learning about yourself, and will allow you to play to your strengths. However, you are, each of you, far more complex than you think or than any test can reveal. And, the process of discipleship is ongoing. God’s always interested in teaching us new skills and ways of relating to, and caring for, others.
You are you. You can’t be anyone else. You can’t make everyone happy. You will disappoint people. Accept this. Don’t hide behind this. Be you, for others. Got it?
Have you ever taken a personality test, the Meyers-Briggs, Strengsfinders, Love Languages, or something else? If not, hopefully you know a bit about your personality. Take time to reflect on your personality today. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? How have you succeeded in bringing happiness to others recently? How have you disappointed others? Ask God how you can be the you that God created you to be, and how you can be you for others? Ask and listen. Observe others in your life over the coming days and weeks. Pay attention. Listen to them. See how God answers your prayer.

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