As I sulked after the game, my coach, Mr Schroetter, took me for a walk around the field. I was expecting to get chewed out. Instead, he did something utterly unexpected. Something which, looking back, would become a defining moment in my life.
Coach noted the mistakes I had made - bluntly. But then, he told me that I was his star center-fielder. He said that, no matter what, he believed in me. He said that, with me in the lineup, the team could really not lose. I felt as though a huge burden was lifted. Long story short... we ended up winning the championship, and I went on that season to play the best ball of my life. (For the full story, click here)
As I have grown in my ministry over the years, so has my aspiration to be a Coach Schroetter type of priest. He led us to a championship and drew the very best out of me. Over the years, I have come to believe that my Coach Schroetter experience was perhaps my first and clearest glimpse into the heart of the Father and the meaning of grace.
Good Stress, Bad Stress: Two Environments
There are two main types of environments in life, whether it’s work or sports or a classroom or even church. One is a tense environment, driven by fear, where we work for approval. The other is an intense environment, driven by love, where we work from approval.
The first type of environment, a tense environment, breeds bad stress. With bad stress, what is at stake is relationship. If I screw up, or fail, or make a mistake, there is a possibility I will be benched, or fired, or replaced - rejected. I am constantly working to impress the person in charge, constantly working for approval.
The second type of environment, an intense environment, breeds good stress. With good stress, what is at stake is results. NOT relationship.... I am secure in the relationship. I do not fear being fired or benched or replaced or rejected. I am secure in the relationship. Instead, I can focus my energy on results.
Coach Schroetter created the second type of environment where, fear-free and secure in my acceptance and belonging, I could thrive and contribute at the highest possible level in freedom and joy. How I long to oversee a parish like this!
A Pastor's Dream
My dream is to pastor St Ambrose towards less of the first type of environment, and more and more of the second type - an intense environment where people are working hard for results. In this intense environment, everyone is secure in their relationship God, their loving Father, their “Abba.” People know they belong. They are working FROM approval, not for it. In this way, they can focus on what is most important, bearing fruit and advancing the victory of the Kingdom in creative and exciting ways.
In short, I long to oversee a parish environment where “perfect love casts out fear.” (1 Jn 4:18)
In such an environment, everyone is free to give their very best, for the sake of the church and the world, as only a free person moved by love can give.
The chief obstacle to creating such an environment? Orphan thinking. Hence, this series.
In the months and years to come, God our Father will be asking a lot of this parish. I believe God has great and lofty plans for us. I believe He is going to keep pushing the envelope, keep challenging us to “get out of the boat” and walk together on water. He is not going to let us get too comfortable. The world needs the light of Christ too urgently, and we are the ones to bring it. Abba wants everyone to know his heart, his love revealed in Jesus his Son. We are His missionary disciples, tasked to spread this good news to those within our sphere of influence.
“We love because he first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19). God asks a lot of us, because he THINKS a lot of us. He knows what he has given us, and he wants to see a return on his investment. But if we don’t grasp the difference between working FOR approval and working FROM approval, then we will be like slaves, or orphans - not sons and daughters. The orphan is always working FOR approval, never FROM it. We are not orphans - we are beloved sons and daughters!
To the extent that our inner thought and heart realm is a “tense” environment promoting “bad stress,” making us feel we must work FOR God’s approval, then we need healing. This may mean re-visiting past wounds and hurts, going back to their source, bringing it all before our merciful and healing Lord. It may mean taking a walk around the field, so to speak, with God who can set us straight.
We are not orphans working for approval. We are beloved sons and daughters working from approval. When a faith community comes to thoroughly understand this, they will see marvelous things indeed!
Healing the Orphan Heart #1: REVEAL
Healing the Orphan Heart #2: DECLARE
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