Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Living Fulfilled When There's No Applause

Have you ever felt that your efforts weren't receiving the attention that you thought they deserved?  At school, on the job, at home? I have often written about the times I've felt unnoticed in motherhood and how I've sought perspective and encouragement during those thankless and lonely moments: Invisible Work and Other Unseen Things, and But Who's Going to be MY Cheerleader?
On a day-to-day basis, we often do things for others without much recognition. My family doesn't always see me sweeping the floor, let alone cheer for me. My work is basically invisible, which can really do a number on how I view myself and what I do. Dissatisfaction and disappointment can regularly sneak in and disrupt my purpose. How can we still find fulfillment during those times of doubt and lack of appreciation?

I recently finished re-reading a small revised version of letters written by a monk from the 17th century.  Practicing God's Presence: Brother Lawrence for Today's Reader introduced me to an incredibly humble man seeking contentment in less than glamorous circumstances.  He performed menial tasks despite physical handicaps and illnesses and still found indescribable joy.  Though Brother Lawrence had given up "the pleasures of his life," he felt that "God surprised him by giving him a life of satisfaction" in return (Elmer, 17). He also believed that, "We shouldn't get tired of doing little things for God, either, because God doesn't care about the size of the task (Elmer, 33)."

I have preached these truths to myself often, because valuing smallness has been a consistent battle for me.The Bible tells us to "work willingly at whatever you do (Col. 3:23) and to "be faithful over a little (Matthew 25:21 )."  So while what I do may not be described as anything grand, I have to remember that the size of a job or the prestige of a title, doesn't mean as much to God.

For as long as I can remember, I have chased big dreams.  It started when I was nine years old, begging to sing a solo in church and continued well into young adulthood.  As I continued to pursue moments of lime-lit greatness, I stumbled down paths of disappointment.  I mistakenly connected my worth to the way people viewed me.  If they approved, I was doing well. If I lost the election or didn't get the part, I felt the defeat of failure. How would I ever make a difference in the world if no one could see me?

To be seen. At the heart of my delusions of grandeur was simply the very basic needs to be loved and to be known. Beneath my seemingly selfish ambitions, that little girl version of me wearing patent leather dress shoes just wanted to do big things. She wanted to know that she mattered and that she was important. 

I was just using the wrong tools to measure my self-worth and my impact.

Over time, I've learned that there is only one source of truth, and that it brings freedom.  Knowing what God says about me limits the power of others' opinions- whether they are loudly spoken or confusingly silent. And like the Apostle Paul, I am continuing to learn  "to be content whatever the circumstances (Phil. 4:11) and like Brother Lawrence to be "happy to work at whatever small job...all for the love of God (Elmer, 24)."

What about you? Have you struggled in the area of not being noticed? Can you relate?

I would love to hear more from others who've been in a season of obscurity- to learn how you processed and how you persevered. Are you still in that place, or have you moved ahead a few spaces?  Will you share your experience in THIS SURVEY?  Your comments can help me write more specifically about the things that help you! 
Obviously, I'm not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ's servant (Galatians 1:10).

No comments: