I assume it’s natural for just about all of us to ponder our place in the world from time to time…our place in our families, our circles of friends, our workplaces, our schools, our places of worship. When I posted about my desire to be missed if and when I leave my church, this was not to say that I have no friends in my church or that you should pity me. It was about pinpointing the kind of person I want to be now, in my church. Being missed would indicate that my presence had value, that was really here. It would indicate that I was here for a reason.
This often crosses over into other areas of my life, particularly at work. Surely we all (a la George Bailey) have had that thought cross our minds, that questioning of what things would be like without us. It’s the way we evaluate ourselves, the way we gauge our success or failure in any given venture.
I wondered about it long before I finally quit coaching cross-country. Who would take over the job after me? How much better would the team perform with someone else coaching them? What would the kids, parents, staff, other coaches say about me once I was gone? I wondered about Student Council and what would happen if I weren’t involved. How would Homecoming go without my expertise? What would the kids think of the new advisor? I wondered how my substitute teacher during maternity leave would be. I was torn between hoping for an incredible sub so my students wouldn’t suffer and hoping for someone terrible so my students would be glad to see me return. (Fortunately, I ended up getting the best of both worlds–students said they loved their sub, but they really missed me.)
Here’s the odd thing: the more I thought of how I might be perceived and remembered, the more motivated I became to do better. Not due to some innate drive to be successful, but due to fear. Fear of potential negative impressions made. Fear of potential ridicule by others. Fear that when I eventually would resign from coaching, the overall feeling of everyone affected would be…relief. Oh my gosh, what could be worse than sensing that once you had left your position, people were going to cheer? They’re not cheering for a job well done; they’re cheering because the terrible, lazy, talentless, uncaring, stupid, selfish person who was ruining the whole organization was finally gone. Yes, I realize this is a pretty bleak way to view oneself. Extreme. Sometimes self-talk can be that way.
Let’s be honest. In all likelihood, most of the jobs/groups/organizations I am a part of will continue just fine without me, and have already done so. My school still has a cross-country team, but I am not the coach. Homecoming and all the other Student Council events still take place, although I’m not in charge anymore. I don’t need to think any more or less of myself than I am. Somebody will take over my roles; the world will keep on turning. Some things will be better without my presence, and some won’t. Maybe my absence won’t have much of an impact at all. Maybe, though, there will be a few who will say when I’m gone, I really miss her. Maybe someone will have been changed for the better, because of me. I guess I can only hope that like George Bailey on Christmas Eve, I’ll one day get to see something good that has come from my life. Maybe a lot of somethings. It may not be in this life, but maybe God will one day show me, show all of us, how He chose to use us to accomplish His plans on earth.
So I have to accept that I have limitations. I probably can’t actually be best friends with everyone in my church, much as I would love to (it is an incredible group of people!). I’ll spend what time I can with whomever I can, getting to know them, playing with their kids, praying when they’re hurting, listening when they just need to vent. I’ll accept it when I can’t make it to community group because my baby is crying or I’m too tired from the work week or we need to visit family members out of state. I’ll do my part to be there for my church, but try to remember that not all of it is up to me. That’s where the concept of “the body” of Christ is so key.
If I can channel the fear of not being missed into positive actions, I will. I can’t help sometimes thinking about the future and what people will say about me. I’ll use this to help me become more connected in my church. I’ll use it when making lesson plans and helping students. I’ll use it constantly in years to come as I raise my son. This fear can be healthy, if I let it teach me how to live more fully in the moment.