I got this great email a few weeks ago from someone in the congregation I am serving now. She has gotten more involved in the ministries of the denomination, and she attended a Zoom webinar for racial justice recently, After the presentation she sent me an email that tickled and provoked me. Here is an excerpt:
“I am a little embarrassed to write this and hope you won’t be offended. I was on a web presentation today and in my small group I shared that you were our new pastor. Immediately, everyone else on the video started saying they knew you, that we were so lucky to have you, that they used books you wrote, and that they had worked with you. I was a little weirded out and so, I am asking, are you somebody special?”
I had three initial and immediate reactions: no, no, and yes.
The first no was the immediate humble (real or false) “oh, no, I am nobody special,” response. No matter what I have done, wrote, taught, accomplished, it is what any other person could do. Nothing special about me; just ordinary Dan. My mother and grandmother would commend this thinking – don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought. Don’t get a big head.
The second no was a more accurate and honest no. I am not special, but I have been afforded some significant and amazing opportunities that not everyone has received. I have been blessed in so many ways that I do not deserve. I have had opportunities to travel, to teach, to relate, to engage, and to receive that many people never get. I am so fortunate that God has blessed me with a global and systemic relationship with the church and culture.
The yes comes from a fundamental belief that we are all special; all creations of a loving God, uniquely gifted and charged with using our gifts for a greater, common good. I have had so many wonderful opportunities to do good for others. I am amazed by the grace and love of God that has allowed me to do good (and hopefully helpful) work for the kingdom/kin*dom of God. Yes, I have written books, worked with denominational, ecumenical, and political leaders worldwide, taught and learned globally, and met so many amazing Christian disciples, but this doesn’t make me “special,” so much as “fortunate.” I am one lucky son of a gun.
That I am known globally, denominationally, locally as an asset and a resource, is a true blessing, but it makes me humble. I am no more special than anyone else, but I have certainly been blessed in many significant ways. What it reinforces for me; and what I want to encourage in anyone listening, is that we never know what our gifts and offerings might mean to those who receive them.
Ala Matthew 13, we are seed sowers. We are all special in this regard. We all offer what we have whenever we can, to whomsoever we can, wherever we are, and it is up to us to offer the best we can at all times. When we do this, God blesses our efforts, and we may never fully know the impact we make. It is so much better to live in the understanding that we ARE special, than that we are not. Anything we say or do may make a huge difference in someone else’s life. We simply just live with integrity, and with the hope and expectation that the Holy Spirit of God will produce in and through us the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, and self-control. This is what makes us special. And this is why we are here. Thanks be to God.