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Pride goeth y’all

This post has been brewing for a while. Ash Wednesday and my own sermon have pushed me to write these things down.

I struggle with pride. I am fiercely competitive. Growing up in a family that was all about sports, all the time – with a Dad who coached at the high school and college levels, two brothers that are pretty awesome and super well respected coaches, five boys in all who played or watched or coached for most of our lives, I have been driven by “winning” for a long time.

There are things in life that you can’t really measure in terms of winning or losing. But I try nonetheless. At a presentation I did at Gathering of Leaders a few years ago, I described how ministry life was post-Katrina. I learned to fail. To try and fail had no shame. We tried a LOT of things in those crazy times, most of which didn’t work, and as a church we learned to be ok with that. But for me and my competitive nature, failure was really hard. So I kept up with our failures and proudly proclaimed us the winner of some fictional contest by failing at more programs, projects, and the like than any other church around. So….we won…..at failing….we WON.

Pride. For some reason that competitive streak in me and pride go hand in hand. Why is it so important to win? What does it say about me when I lose? When I win? When I make it more important than it should be? And especially when I put events and occurrences in my life that really are not about winning or losing into some type of scorecard, what is that about?

In the last five months or so I have had two very hard lessons in pride. I really cannot give details about the first, but let’s just say I was really disappointed, sad and felt rejected by that particular lesson. With no chance to learn from it, no way to grow from it, I was simply left with a big fat NO. And it hurt. This particular no was not necessarily the problem, I had no idea if I wanted to hear yes or no. But the swiftness of it, the lack of feedback, the surprise, well I was wounded. (Meanwhile a great lesson that we should always look at discernment as a yes – maybe it’s no to one thing but how do we affirm the discerner in various other ways while also giving them honest feedback on what we may think God is saying about their quest).

The second lesson came from being defeated as I ran for General Convention Deputy in my home diocese. I am serving as an Interim in another diocese but still “canonically resident” in Mississippi, making me eligible to serve in that capacity. I have been part of the last 3 deputations from Mississippi and thought I had done a pretty good job, represented the diocese well, learned a lot, was deeply involved in the reorganization movement. I was even appointed to the Theology of Marriage Task Force by the President of the House of Deputies and the Presiding Bishop – one of ten deputies out of over 800 selected for this really big task. I knew my not currently serving a church in Mississippi would cause some voters to be wary of supporting me, so I planned all along to be present at our Annual Council. Yet my body betrayed me – a nasty, sudden attack of cellulitis in my leg left me very sick and in the hospital as Council convened. I “watched” via Twitter and other means as the election unfolded, and I was really crushed to be left off the team this time around. Our Task Force needs as many of us to be deputies as possible as our work is presented at General Convention in 2015. I felt like I let my fellow task force members down. And I felt like, for some reason, my own diocese had a much lower opinion of me than I thought they had. Of course the truth is there were some GREAT candidates, all of whom will serve very well and are well qualified to do so, obviously a part of this is just sour grapes. Which points to, of course –

Pride. Goeth.

Both of these “failures” have caused me to do a lot of reflection. Obviously there are good and valid reasons both of these things turned out the way they did, reasons I do not see and may never know. I have to learn to be ok with that ambiguity. And more than likely there is a much deeper lesson for me – about pride, about competition, about looking at the world differently, at challenges differently. For someone who had Vince Lombardi’s famous words (winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing) become part of my DNA, these are difficult lessons.

Maybe I can change and then enter and win some kind of Change Olympics! Yes, that’s the ticket! Gold medal for me!!!…..

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