Push reset and celebrate irrelevancy
My Current Rant:
When I hear leaders who are barely out of college and with very limited experience, who are in a training position, comment that people in their mid to late twenties are too old to relate to students I feel even more marginalized than I am and how arrogant you are.
When I watch leaders treat parents with a lack of respect as I hear them discuss those raising the current youth in the church while rolling their eyes and thinking they know better than those entrusted with the job, I feel angry and defensive. Just wait until you try to parent well and you are maligned by those working with your kids.
When I see inappropriate posts on social media from those who are working with students, I am offended because you are undoing everything you say by your double life. Kids are watching you.
When I observe people who make more of themselves than Jesus, and live life with a poor work ethic, I am frustrated. How does that honor the Lord you say you love?
When I watch lazy pastors not care for the flock, it pisses me off. When they cancel events or do things half-heartedly or half-assed I am sad for what they are really teaching the next generation about entitlement and narcissism rather than putting others first.
I really used to think that I had a lot to offer. I spent 25 years in youth ministry focused on junior high students. I wrote curriculum. I trained leaders. I led trips. I answered God’s call on my life. But none of that matters today. Today I get up and go to work. I sit by and watch people make mistakes in ministry and yet I am not asked for advice or wisdom or accountability (nor is anyone else of my generation). I am stunned and hurt by it all.
I know things are different now. I get that the practices of ministry had to change but that does not mean that life is better now than it was before. It is only different. In fact, things done today would not have been okay back in the day just as some of the methods I used I could not use anymore. Styles of ministry need to stay relevant by adapting yet some things do not change. Jesus and the Word are always relevant. Stages of development are the same. Kids are kids and need boundaries and mentors. Everyone still cannot survive more than 3 seconds without hope. People are still dying without knowing God’s grace.
I am now irrelevant. I know on a personal level there are people whose lives I affect. However, looking at the bigger picture, I am increasingly convinced I impact nothing. It is difficult to find meaning in a culture where I no longer have purpose. I don’t want to “rest on my laurels”, reliving the days when I felt that I mattered, but it is lonely to feel that I no longer do matter and I am without a purpose. I am marginalized by my age, my race, my gender, my financial state, and sometimes even my marital status.
There are some things that no longer have a purpose: a palm pilot, a typewriter, a stenographer, carbon paper, message and fax machines, film, slide projectors, encyclopedias, et al.
Since when did it happen that heart matters more than ability and that training and education are no longer valued? Since when did experience and wisdom become a liability? Since when is it okay for sin and foolishness to be tolerated while speaking the truth in love is seen as unkind? Since when is it okay for us to look the other way and not hold each other accountable for the things we say and do?
I know that these thoughts run the risk of giving me the label “depressed” or “whiny” but I really am not. I am happy overall. Even though I am not withdrawing from life, it is withdrawing from me. My kids are leaving the nest. My career is over but the bills are not! There are few demands on my schedule apart from those I put there.
Relevancy is very rewarding and I am struggling to adjust to not being needed or important. That is harder for me (because I am not used to it) than all the stress of mattering and being relevant. So, how do I master irrelevancy? How do I learn to be okay with not having a purpose or goal? I can easily spend a day or two by myself, retreating from the world and its stresses but I am not sure how to manage for a year or for the rest of my life. And, I am open to suggestions!
While irrelevancy can lead to freedom to re-create and re-define a life, to take risks and work towards living authentically, it is not in my wheelhouse to not care about how or if my life impacts anything.
Lord, help me to learn to take pleasure in the activity and not the impact. Help me to learn how to celebrate purposeless interactions without guilt. Teach me to find pleasure in life without needing to fix anything, problem solve or prove something. I need you to help me to make a difference without any goal in mind. I want to live with open hands that allow you to bring the good from the bad, without my help!
We all need a dose of humility from time to time. Growing smaller means He can increase! Feeling “less than” can actually be healthy. It helps us grow a perspective that is grateful and dependent. Diminished worth in the eyes of those around me does not change God’s value and purpose for me. 000 means reset; it means starting from today I stop looking back and I press on to win the prize for which God has called me.
Next time I will tell you how I really feel but now I will go back to looking at everything with myopic glasses and my lips zipped.