Farmville Enterprise May 23, 2018
There is something to be said for being a small fish in a big pond. Growing up, I was rarely the best at anything. In our family, my younger brother, now a university philosophy professor, was the genius. My older brother, now a well-respected carpenter, was a terrific artist. At Saint Mary’s Elementary I was a typical student. I always have been horrible at science. In classes at Annapolis High School there were friends much smarter than I was, especially in Chemistry and Calculus. Some went on to college to places like Cornell, Stanford, William and Mary, and the University of Virginia while I attended the University of Maryland Baltimore County, of recent NCAA tournament fame, with a partial scholarship for gymnastics. On the Parkettes South and then Docksiders gymnastics team from elementary through high school I never was a stand-out. Many of my teammates were much more naturally talented and got full rides to big gymnastics schools like Oklahoma State University, the University of Georgia, the University of Maryland and the United States Naval Academy. When you have been around a bunch of gifted high-performing people it might be easier to consider your own strengths more realistically. Small ponds have a lot of talent as well. No matter where we were raised, the temptation tends to be towards self-importance. Instead of rightly recognizing our talents as being God-given we can drift into the false notion that we alone have accomplished good things or that we deserve the abilities God has bestowed upon us.
The apostle Paul cautions, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” (Romans 12:3b-6a) J. B. Phillips translation puts Romans 12:3b this way, “Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance, but try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities by the light of the faith that God has given to you all.”
Rick Warren opens his best-seller The Purpose Driven Life by saying, “It’s not about you.” Our mistake comes when we perceive the world as revolving around us. At times we even mistakenly take Scripture and make it about us. Most sin has its root in the “I” in the middle of the word.
Pastor and author Paul Tripp writes of our addiction to the pursuit of self-glory and its dangers. “Success is a wonderful blessing that you should pursue, but it’s simultaneously a dangerous thing. Successful people are rarely humble because they take credit for what only God can produce. And, the Bible would never equate success in life or ministry with personal holiness. You can be dramatically successful and dramatically distant from God, even as a professing Christian. When successful people look in the mirror, they’re tempted to see someone who deserves all that they’ve earned. But the mirror of God’s Word reveals that every good gift comes from the Father (James 1:17) and none of us actually wants what we truly deserve (Psalm 103:10).”
A healthy self-image is one that recognizes and celebrates talents as being God-given. God does not need us to accomplish his purpose but graciously uses our efforts when they are offered in humility.