I avoid looking at name tags when I’m being helped by a sales person. It’s my hope that by looking them in the eye we can have a real moment, find common ground, and I can somehow remind them in our brief interaction that God loves them and can dump a load of grace on a mistake— rarely does such an opportunity to minister arise when you are in Target and women are fighting over Capri Sun boxes, but I can hope.
Brandon, though, insists on saying the name of the man or woman who gives him assistance in a store or business. He lives to spot a name tag and identify a stranger by their first name. We went to a Friday afternoon movie last week, and he greeted the ticket-taker with “Hi Nelson” while I dug through my bag for our tickets. “Here you go, Nelson,” he said as I handed them over.
“Hey Nelson, have a good day,” he called as the red velvet rope was moved to let us in.
I just looked at him, wondering why this gives him so much joy. “Say ‘Nelson’ one more time…,” I threatened him.
Me? I prefer to say sir or ma’am, depending on the age, but in general I avoid the name tag because I don’t think it’s fair that they’re forced to wear one in the first place. What if you don’t want people to know your name, or what if you don’t want them to take a chance trying to pronounce it? When I went to IHOP with Simon, our waitress’ name was Asswana (like ASS and then WANA), and I was nervous throughout the entire meal that Simon might actually try to strike up a conversation about it, which would have been a disaster.
I break from this rule when a sales person introduces themselves to me, like Kevin did when I went to buy running shoes the following day. Since he willingly told me his name, I took advantage of saying it as often as I could. He quickly led me through all of the options on the market, but suggested I should go with a stability shoe. Apparently it’s obvious from the get-go that I’m, um, unstable when I run. After trying out a few pairs I selected some hot pink jammy-jams – aka running shoes that will help me soar in the upcoming NYC Triathlon—and he asked me, “What kind of socks are you running in?”
“Cotton,” I replied.
“Oh no. Not cotton socks. Cotton socks are the worst socks you can run in. They hold in moisture. They cause blisters. Cotton is TERRIBLE.”
“Cotton is the fabric of OUR LIVES, Ke-vin.” And with that, I bought the shoes and left.
The next day I tested the shoes with a run in the park, and quit early to come home and watch television in the comfort of air conditioning. Brandon was sucked into “The Walking Dead”, and he was especially interested in seeing Sonequa (who plays the character Sasha). Sonequa is one of my best friends, and is a featured kick-butt actress on the show. (If you have tried to avoid one of those wonderful weekends when AMC replays every episode of “The Walking Dead”, give in! It’s so good!) I gave the show my attention for a while, didn’t laugh when a joke was made, and then I announced that I needed to shower because I could feel something coming over me.
It felt like disappointment, but wasn’t. It felt like sadness, but wasn’t. It felt like…
…like, envy. And I was horrified. And mortified. And panicked. – Never fool around with envy. Confront it right away, call it out, and get rid of it. Repent, and thank God you have a heart sensitive enough to recognize things that don’t belong to you. Because you’re better than that, and you don’t need to covet anything that anyone else has.
I want to be clear that I don’t desire to be on a television show. I used to, but that dream was replaced by a better one years ago. What I wanted, in that moment, was the ‘success’ of being known for what you do. To have people cheer you because to them, you have ‘succeeded’. And to have fans because you are ‘successful’.
Clearly there was a pattern in my desires, all circling the idea of what it means to be successful. And for the first time in so long, I felt the very opposite. So I went into the bathroom and I cried. I cried because nothing I did seemed to be important, or to be worthy of posting on Face Book. In comparison to being on television, I was losing at life it seemed. Nothing that I was working on– marriage, ministry or manuscripts – was making me ‘successful’.
And I was right, even though I was wrong. It is not my work that makes me successful—it’s having God with me, and having Him be for me, and me simply doing everything He has told me to do that makes me successful. I had to study the Word to get back to a place of sanity, and I had to do it quickly. The world will never, ever give us, the Believers, the satisfaction that can only be obtained when we know that we are standing right where God told us to stand. Even if it’s in the middle of ‘nowhere’.
If you are judging success based on temporal things, things that don’t last, you are losing. The battle is in your mind and your spirit, and it is there that you will win, not on your resume’ or in your wallet.
I leave you with this scripture that I have been meditating on, the one that reminds me that every time I lower my desires and give His will first priority, He will in turn lift me up higher than I could have ever imagined.
5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
9-11 Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.
12-13 What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning.
-Philippians 2 in the Message translation
Lead me deeper into trusting You, Lord, into deeper water. I will walk with You anywhere. Even in cotton socks.
And to Sonequa: My admiration for you knows no borders. Thank you for being the light, a true follower of Christ, and for being a prime example of what humility and hard work can get you in this life. Until the next sleepover…