The evening was special, but not in the way I expected. We dressed up all fancy for the $100/plate banquet to which we had complimentary tickets (I taking a slightly rebellious pleasure in wearing a beautiful $5 Salvation Army find.)
I feared this banquet. It has been years since I’ve been part of Canadian professional circles. I don’t like small talk and prefer to be in the background than on center stage. I feared being back in a room of successful, powerful people. Would they wonder why I had been chosen for the award, I who have failed by the standards of the world, losing my medical career after only five years of professional practice? I who continue on disability, slowly improving then being set back, writing slowly and still unable to manage more than one course at a time? I, who have now chosen to go against the grain of the world which prizes power, letting my weakness be seen because it’s there that Jesus comes closest?
I feared too, that if I wasn’t intimidated by all the "successful" people, me sinking down into inadequacy and shame, I’d be drawn into pride by the accolades. Drawn away from the One whom I love.
A couple of days before the banquet, He whispered again the wonderful news: He’s the physician, not me. I’m daren’t try to doctor myself.
In the course of an illness, or a lifetime, there are periods of higher risk. The patient may anxiously sense that she’s not doing well, or she may be comfortable and drowsy, oblivious to the risk. But the wise physician, knowing the risky stretches well, watches closely, plans the best care for each phase. This physician can be trusted.
Hear the good news again: It’s not up to me to fix myself (. . . or others. . .). I don’t have to be well before I come. I don’t have to root out the pride, fix the insecurities. Again and again and again, to those already given to Him and to those not yet His, he calls. Come broken, lay the heart open before Him, and let Him be the one to diagnose and treat.
And He knows how. There were gifts of His presence throughout the week, all adding up to living the evening in the joy of His whispered love, "You are Mine." He led me back to words that expressed the longing of my heart, giving me the prayer to sing all day: ". . . I want to sign Your name to the end of this day, knowing that my heart was true. Let my lifesong sing to You. . ." And then He answered it with His tangible love, leaving me knowing it was all His doing.
The award itself was empty: why celebrate what I’ve done when all that really matters is what He does? But the joy was full: being His was enough. And though I felt a little awkward and not particularly articulate (I'll probably never be good at small talk), it didn't matter. All that "success"? It's all an empty mask behind which hide people who desperately need to know they're loved.
God graciously strips off the masks, shows us our smallness so He can give us His love.
I’m still not sure how it happened. The awards were in the program. Someone announced that they would be presented next. The designated person got up and spoke about something completely different, sat back down and the next person went on, seemingly oblivious. It meant that the awards with the videotaped interviews ended the evening, leaving the challenge ringing in our ears: “Don’t get so caught up in the busyness that you forget to ask what really matters. What are we here for? Keep asking until you find an answer that really satisfies.” It was a gracious invasion into an evening of us puffing ourselves up like peacocks and patting each other on the back for our achievements. God always, in love, has the last word: it's what He does that matters.