We see it everywhere – American Idol, The Voice, Survivor, The Apprentice, The Biggest Loser, and more. Every week people give their all only to be told they are not welcome back. They weren’t good enough, weren’t popular enough, were voted off, didn’t make the cut.
As a youth, that happened to me fairly regularly. I would spend a week staying after school to try out for soccer or baseball. Other times I would stay for auditions for a choir or the school play. Then on “cut day” I would slowly approach the list the coach or director posted outside of their office that contained the names of those who “made it.” More often than not, my name was not on the list. I didn’t make the cut. That hurt every time.
Worse, the cold reality that I wasn’t good enough didn’t stay confined to my athletic or vocal abilities. It spilled over into other areas. Rather than feeling I had failed at this specific task, I thought I was a failure. As an insecure adolescent that is understandable. As a professionals that is unacceptable.
I recently heard an associate pastor say that almost every week she does something to which no one comes. Many would be deeply hurt if that happened once. Imagine going through that several times a month! Some might question their call to ministry, or their effectiveness in their current church. Not my colleague. She simply said, “Next week, I try something else.” I admire that.
Sitting alone in the room fifteen minutes after the appointed start time of an event she worked hard to prepare, I am sure she feels the sting of disappointment I felt each time my name was not on one of those lists. Unlike my adolescent self though, she does not let that affect her functioning. When no one comes, she picks herself up, dusts herself off, and tries again next week.
My colleague has learned not to allow things beyond her control to affect how she feels about herself. Nor does she allow it to deter her effort. You can have a great tryout and not make the team because the coach did not take note of it. You can sing your lungs out and the director not think you’re not right for the part. You can have a great interview and the hiring committee choose someone else. You, like our colleague, can plan a fantastic gathering to which no one shows up.
The key is to do the things you can control to the best of your ability, and leave the results, over which you have no control, to God. Put in the time and effort. Prepare with all you’ve got. And keep trying. You cannot make the people show up, but you can be prepared with excellence when they do.
It hurts when, despite our best efforts, a program fails. That does not mean that you are a failure, your ministry is not vital, you are in the wrong congregation, or you are not fit for ministry. It simply means that it didn’t work this time. Keep going. Keep trying. Keep putting yourself out there. Even if you have to do it every week.