“Although the bush was on fire, it was not being consumed.”
-Exodus 3: 2
Being humbled is not the easiest part of being in the Seminary. But it’s a beautiful part of it all.
God was really testing me (remember, our God never tempts us, hoping that we fail; when he tests us, he does so only to bring us closer to him) these last couple of weeks, letting me come face to face with my own pride, with my own stubbornness. Thank goodness God is so desperately in love with us that he would face us with our own weaknesses and faults, not to turn us away from him, but to draw closer to us. And so when we look back at our pride amid failure, sometimes all we can do is laugh gently at how we thought we knew what was best, how stubborn we can be about what we want, and how much more rewarding and fulfilling it is to live with out such pride and such sureness in ourselves, but to trust in God.
That’s really easy to say, I admit, but I know for myself at least, it’s pretty hard to live out. I’m thinking of how just a couple of weeks ago, here at the Seminary, we had our Student Senate elections. It really wasn’t anything too formal or too stressful. All the way up to the night before the elections, nobody had signed up to run for vice-president. Along with that, everyone who had been nominated by others had crossed their names out, everyone saying that they’re already too busy, they don’t need anything more to do!
And so this is where I step in! I kept hearing that no one wanted the extra work that goes along with it, but I know I’m just stubborn enough to know that I could help get done what needs to get done. I’m willing to bury myself to do what little I can to make this place thrive. So there is definitely some goodness in my heart here: I want to help and I feel like I have a lot to give to make things better.
So when the elections came, I had to be honest to myself and to my brothers down here. I got up in front of the whole community and told them how much I love St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians: he constantly tells them how weak he is, how he would rather boast about his weakness than his accomplishments, and how God makes us strongest in our failures. And I admitted to them that sometimes my weakness is that I try to take on too much. Pretty much, I told them not to vote for me! They sent me and the other seminarian running for the position off so they could vote for us. When we came back, they had taken my advice! I was not the new vice-president of the student senate.
And this is where that pride and stubbornness can rear its ugly head. In my heart I knew that I was too busy, with leading a choir, doing the student payroll and being in charge of all the dishwashing, with new sacristan duties, as well as the extra little bit of academics that come with the degree I’m pursuing. But in my head, that pride kept trying to tell me for the rest of that day that they didn’t think I’d make a good leader, or that if I had not been so honest I could have the job I kind of actually wanted. My pride kept trying to tell me that I was unwanted and rejected.
But God doesn’t want us weighed down by such silliness. That’s what it really is, it’s almost nonsense. He’s given us the ability to be proud to be able to rejoice in what he’s done for us. He’s given us a kind of stubbornness to persevere in loving him and others. He’s given us our minds so that we might come to know him. And he’s given us our hearts so that all of those things will lead us back to him, not to us, but to him.
So when we’re called to be leaders, or at least to step up when no one else will until someone better or more fit for job comes along, it’s going to take a great amount of humility and trust in the Holy Spirit to step up or step aside when we need to. I know some of you have been involved in student leadership at school, and even are leaders at church. Why do we do it? What do we feel when we fail? Do we have the kind of relationship with the Holy Spirit so that we know when we’re called to lead and when we’re called to step aside? So let’s keep praying together about this. I know I’m tempted to want to be a leader sometimes because I can be seen and can get my point across. But as leaders, no matter who we’re leading or being led by, if those we’re walking alongside see only us, and not Jesus Christ, then we are failed leaders. No matter how successful we might be, we cannot afford to point only to ourselves, and not to God. Let our hearts be on fire for God, then they might burn brightly for him, so that others may follow us to him. Otherwise, we’ll simply burn up and burn out.