Years ago I was the poster child for Pastor’s-Family-Goes-to-Hell-in-a-Hand-Basket. I did not choose this role. In fact, if I could have, I would have chosen to be the poster child for Pastor’s-Family-is-Almost-Perfect, which come to think of it, might be why we went to hell in a hand basket in the first place. I wonder about that.
Lately, I’ve been thinking that we don’t get to choose what we’re a poster child for. It’s handed to you. Even Jesus experienced this when he walked the earth. By random selection, a scroll of Isaiah 61 was handed to him on his turn to read in the synagogue one day. Perhaps more than any other Old Testament passage, these verses beautifully express Jesus’ purpose for being on earth in the first place: “to preach good news to the poor… to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
When Jesus finished talking that day, you’d think he’d be hailed as the poster child for Hallelujah-God-is-on-Earth. But no. By claiming to be who he truly was, he became the poster child for How-Dare-You and Let’s-Run-Him-Out-of-Town. While he was quietly fulfilling his purpose, Jesus became a very different kind of poster child.
Last week a friend texted me a picture of a slide from my friend Jeff Shinabarger’s talk at Chic-fil-A’s corporate office. I knew exactly what Jeff was saying about me, and I wrote her back, “Yes, I’m a poster child for fear” and added the most sheepish smiley emoji I could find.
I saw Jeff a few days later and asked him if I could please be the poster child for something else, like Superwoman-Gets-it-Done. Secretly, I’m happy he says what he says, but sheesh, why do I get to be the authentic representation of a weakness every single time? I forget sometimes that I am weak. Jeff smiled and said, “Oh, so you don’t want me telling the Refuge story whenever I get a chance?”
If the most relatable part of this story is my fear – my daily terror, I should say – I’ve decided that’s okay. Overcoming the fear is what helps me fulfill my God-given purpose, whether anyone else but God sees that purpose or not. The fear is rather large, all glossy and obvious like an action movie poster. But at the end of the day, posters are flimsy pieces of coated paper with curling edges that fade and eventually disintegrate in the sun or the rain. They are the skin, not the DNA. They are the shadow, not the substance. A poster doesn’t begin to proclaim the purpose for your life. A poster does a better job pointing out the very thing that, like it or not, keeps you humble enough to approximate that purpose in real life.
Who you are and what you do matters more than the poster that tells about it. If you are driven by a purpose (for instance to raise children with love or to lead a non-profit well, which can be personal expressions of proclaiming “the year of the Lord’s favor”) and if you trust a God who trumps random selection (like making Isaiah 61 come up on the very day his Son stands to read in the synagogue), then whatever is handed to you is worth grasping with all your might. Take that poster, unfurl it, and tack it up with pride. Just go with it.