This is a question that just rolls and rolls and rolls around in my mind.
Can I be a bench warmer?
There is this THING in me. This nagging, self sickening place inside me that is desperately afraid of not being MVP of EVERYTHING. Just writing that brought stinging to my eyes and it may take a minute to come back from a really ugly cry. But truth be told, oh’ how I just long for truth, well, the truth is that somewhere in my mind is that 90’s slogan that “Second is just another way to say first loser.” Could it be, Lord, that in the hidden recesses of my heart that I’ve hook line and sinker bought that second is a euphemism for not good enough?
Let’s get one thing straight. There is nothing wrong with doing your best.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord…” Col. 3:23.
I’m positive that the Lord is honored when we put our heads down and work with all our hearts for HIM and it succeeds. And we win the race. And we sang in tune. And the event was a success. And the house was clean. And our kid’s graduated. I’m sure He gets a great big kick out of it when we look back over our shoulders and grin at Him and say, “How in the world did you do that through me?”
It isn’t these moments that throw me. Its the lingering doubt that I’m okay with God choosing to use someone else this time. While I was reading to my kids out of 1 Samuel after breakfast, I read the story of little Samuel hearing from God. The point I was supposed to be making (and did-somewhat distractedly) was that Eli the priest taught little Samuel how to hear from God by saying “Speak, for your servant is listening” because “Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.” (1Samuel 3:7). Little Samuel didn’t know the voice of God, yet and it was time for someone to help him learn to listen to the voice of God. And while I sat reading, praying ever so that my children will too, hear the voice of God and become humble servants of Him, I was really fleshing out the shoes of Eli.
Because the night that little Samuel heard that voice calling his name, and while he mistook that voice for the old priest’s and heard for the first time the fresh, mind blowing, sensory lifting, EVERYTHING voice of God, a priest and his hopes were shelved. Benched.
I picture Eli awakening from the grogginess of sleep for the second time by a child who thought he’d heard something (been there-done that) and harkening to the realization that this boy who slept mere feet from the Ark of God, was probably, actually, hearing the voice of the Almighty who had been conspicuously quiet. I wonder if, as the old priest gave the instructions and the word’s for leaning an ear to BREATH HIMSELF, if that frail body ached understanding that the WORD was not coming to him. Not only were his sons, hell bent- literally, outside of God’s plan for the future of the priesthood, but this tender child would now be the vessel and the tool rather than him. Surely the realization that he was being passed over for the reception of God’s message did not pass Eli by.
And oh’ there are times when I confess this desperate longing to be the best at everything. The best wife. The prettiest girl. The nicest voice. The best, most patient, most creative, always dolled up mother. The best housekeeper. The best friend. The most talented. The most gifted. The most intelligent. The one USED. The most FILL in the BLANK. You are beginning to grasp the scope of the problem.
The problem is that I just want to be a rock star. To You. To Me. To God. And to anyone else that might notice. I WANT TO BE THE MVP and I want to be the one receiving the message.
But it doesn’t always work that way with 6 Billion other people on the planet. And greater still Jesus said, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20:26-27)
There’s this really catchy Psalty song from growing up that says something like “if you want to be great in God’s kingdom-you gotta be a servant of all…” And if I want to be like THE SERVANT, I am going to serve.
And so here it is. The lesson from Eli.
Even when I desperately want to be the one in the game, even when I desperately want to be the one God is using, even when I want my opinion to be sought and valued, or to be every one’s favorite, what is most important to me is that God’s voice is heard and that I am relevant and a superstar in God’s mind for being faithful with what He HAS given. I have no doubt that Eli wished he could hear the voice of God himself and to be privy to God’s mind on the matter, but he was faithful with the job in front of him.
This time, well, this time he was the MVP’s trainer. The one bringing in the water bottles and watching the little one play the game. And instead of focusing on not hearing HIS voice, Eli trained little Samuel how to hear God speak and waited (albeit a little nervously and fearfully, I suspect) with expectation for the little boy’s message. Because Eli knew, he just knew, that the word of God, whatever it said was worth listening to.
“So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, ‘He is the LORD; let him do what is good in His eyes.’ “ (1Samuel 3:18)
I don’t want to romanticize Eli, he is certainly not a biblical hero, I just fellowshipped with him this morning over scrambled eggs and reheated waffles.
Nobody wants to be a benchwarmer. But just to be on God’s team. Oh’ Lord, just to be on your team will be enough. I will lay down all my aspirations of grand slams just to wear your jersey.
I see that greatness in God’s economy comes through service and that His star players are the ones who are willing to lay all the fan fare to his Son, Jesus. If I look at him and just direct my thoughts to him, that I don’t deserve to even be on the field at all. Just to be counted as His, and to have His eye on me is enough.
There are no small sacrifices to an all-seeing God. There are no unnoticed acts of service, no mundane jobs done well. The eye of God and His approval is infinitely enough- and if I just lift my eyes to Him I will see that there are prizes waiting not just for the MVPs but for the benchwarmers, the watergirls, the cotton candy guy, and yes, even the janitors.