“Our attempt to not feel off guard actually leads to greater self-absorption and the foolish conviction that we can control the world. True core strength is willing to feel helpless and disturbed, and it results in a self-disciplined and passionate life rather than in a controlling life that fears what may surprisingly arise.”
Dan B. Allendar, PhD
What landed Jesus on the cross was the preposterous idea that common, ordinary, broken, screwed-up people could be godly! What drove Jesus’ enemies crazy were his criticisms of the “perfect” religious people and his acceptance of the imperfect nonreligious people. The shocking implication of Jesus’ ministry is that anyone can be spiritual. Scandalous? Maybe.
How can the inner workings of the heart be changed from a dynamic of fear and anger to that of love, joy, and gratitude? Here is how. You need to be moved by the sight of what it cost to bring you home.
When I was 16 years go I got my first job busing tables at a Goldie’s Restaurant in my hometown. This job involved removing half-eaten food from tables, waiters that wouldn’t share their tips, cleaning the bathrooms, and just about every other conceivable disgusting thing in the restaurant business. But I’ve always remembered one thing from my 4 nights of employment. (Are you surprised? Of course I quit after 4 days!)
I guess I wasn’t exactly hiding my dissatisfaction with my chores, and my boss pulled me into his office to tell me to smile more. I laughed at his request and then he got in my face and told me that to work for his restaurant I had to look approachable, and if I was walking around looking upset; that nobody would ever ask for my help…and then there was the potential that an unhappy customer might leave the restaurant. That right there is some truth!
So fast forward almost 20 years and that advice still stands! Every Sunday morning as I walk in and through the areas of my church, I’m interacting with a customer of sorts. Not the kind of customer that is buying something, but the kind that has a need that needs to be filled. I don’t know what those needs are, but I need to work to be as approachable as possible. Sometimes it’s being approachable to tell someone where they can find a particular place on our campus. Other times it’s being able to reward the bravery of a child that wants you to pray with them.
Here are the ways I work to always make people feel welcome.
- Smile. This is the simplest one. Simply smile. A simple smile always disarms even the most frustrated person. And here’s a little secret about the power of a smile…it can cover whatever turmoil you may be going through in the moment. Have you ever heard this saying, “Fake it, ’til you make it!”? Just because you don’t feel like smiling, isn’t a good enough reason to frown!
- Look Around. I work every weekend to not always look at myself, and what I’m going through during a busy weekend. Instead, I take the time to look at what is around me. Many times I’ve discovered I can help people by just seeing what they see. Walking around and looking for those needs, is key to finding the needs I can meet.
- Avoid Groups. By this I mean, that I avoid standing around in groups of cliques. If you go to church you know what I mean. I don’t hang out with the other pastors in the lobby, loiter in front of the nursery, or restrict myself to the guest connections counter. I’m not rude, but I just never stay in one place very long.
- Smile. Oh, did I already mention this one?
If you’re working at a church, and you’re not deliberately working to make yourself available to those that need you…then you’re missing one of your greatest callings!
“Having success for a year or two, that’s called being hot. Being in demand. Excellence is being able to perform at a high level for a long period of time.”
— Jay Z, music artist and entrepreneur
I know a number of people who have experienced overnight success with a product or startup, but as parents the idea of “overnight success” should be dismissed immediately. If you believe for even a moment that one fantastic conversation with your child will set the course for the rest of their lives, then you are delusional. Excellence is something that comes over a long period of time.
The good news is that because it’s a long time coming, there is time to bring correction to my own parenting mistakes. My excellence isn’t measured in hours and days or even weeks. It is instead measured over years and decades. I think I can tackle this decade thing, it’s the hourly thing I’m struggling with.
Love over time, time over time, words over time, hugs over time, attention over time, dinners over time, car rides over time, ice cream after school…over time. Its the distance we travel that creates the greatest impression on our children.
So make it a point to pursue excellence, not quick fixes. Excellence is who you are…over time.