I recently came back from a conference featuring pastors/authors Rob Bell, Peter Rollins and Shane Hipps called Poets, Prophets and Preachers. It was an inspiring time and I left filled with more hope and promise for our local ministry – The Mercy House – and my own personal dreams than I have in a long time. And while I bask in the glow of a pastoral pep rally, this seems the opportune time to work through some thoughts.
It can be maddening. Painter friends of mine wonder why the canvases labored over remain unsold while older, much less technical works are the ones that sell. Musicians often speak in interviews of being surprised by the legs of a last-second addition to an album while the other “sure-fire” tracks never garner any radio spins. No matter the venue, sometimes our most valiant works go unnoticed or even refused while the half-hearted, there’s-no-way-this-will-work efforts receive all the praise.
Thus, the artist, the preacher, the writer, the potter are all left in a precarious position. Of course, this is no excuse to rest on your laurels, but it also removes the longing to hold out expectations for something you cannot control. As Rob spoke, I wrote a note that I’m not sure how much was a quote and how much was my own mind working around what was being mentioned. But in that moment, I simply jotted down “…so the most you can offer is a grounded, focused, truthful effort.”
There might be other, even better, descriptors, but that’s what struck me in that moment. It’s an inner calling to make things excellent, no matter what the turnout or response. And there’s also a beauty to realizing I’m turning in a less-than-stellar assignment only to receive a gracious “A”. It keeps you humble, or at least it should (rather than being lazy), and it keeps the ego in check in thinking it all depends on you.
Has anyone else found this concept to be true in their own lives – their own masterpieces being ignored while watching other unexpected pieces finding themselves on center stage?