I like to see repeating images and messages in what I read, small things that come together to highlight a greater theme. I started reading The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan for the second time, and the anecdote about the mother and her swan seems to weave itself throughout all the stories. Although they’re all pretty unique stories about Chinese immigrant mothers and their Chinese-American daughters, the images that represent filial piety and long-term hopes appear repeatedly in these pages.
Maybe this focus on patterns and repetition in my books spills over into my life, which can be good and bad at the same time.
It’s been exceptionally difficult to be myself and relax here at home this summer. Although I’m only volunteering at my home church, it feels more of a chore than something I enjoy, probably because I feel like I’m not using my gifts and talents in the best way possible. It’s my pride saying, “I can do better than just taking out the trash, setting up for lunch, and taking care of the kids after the program when no one else wants to take care of them. I should be leading the spiritual stuff, the important things that people will remember me by.” It’s my arrogance saying, “I’m entitled to feeling more important in this program because I’ve done it for so many years.” It’s my egotism saying, “I’m not even getting paid for this.” And when my old campers, now counselors, see me taking out the trash and say, “Oh look, Cindy’s finally doing something for once,” it hurts more than it should. What is my reason for coming in to volunteer every day if people don’t think I’m doing anything at all? AM I really doing anything at all?
I’ve been consistently receiving these snide remarks and comments from different people at church, and I don’t think I’ll ever know if they meant what they said. But hearing the same words about how I’m finally doing something is pretty damaging to my ego. I thought that people wanted me to be there. I thought that I could make an impact on the program by being there for the first time in two years. I thought that my presence mattered.
And that’s my pride, weaving itself through every single one of my words.
Why can’t I shake this feeling off? As the program is nearing its end this Friday, I’m feeling like I wasted these last five weeks at camp where my presence and what I did had no effect on the people and the ministry. The worst part is knowing that one of the directors, my best friend, knew what I wanted to do for the program as a volunteer, yet my request to play a more spiritual role at camp was just pushed aside and forgotten.
Why can’t I just swallow my pride?
Is it because I’m simply volunteering so people can praise me for my time there? So people can notice me and thank me for my hard work? So people can see how “spiritual” I am and respect me more?
Am I really doing this to further God’s kingdom? Why can’t I serve with all my heart, no matter the mundane tasks and responsibilities, just as Jesus did?
I usually enjoy ending my posts with something uplifting, a pattern that some of my friends have noticed. But it’s hard for me to write something positive when that’s not how I feel at all; I would be lying to myself and to the people reading this post. It’s been an ongoing struggle for me regarding my home church this entire year: feeling isolated, excluded, unimportant, and forgotten. Maybe that’s why it’s incredibly difficult for me to shake off this feeling when I’m volunteering for a program that I’ve poured my heart into for at least 5 years of my life. Am I not needed here anymore?
I need God to change my heart before going into Youth Camp in two weeks, where I’ll be in charge of a cabin of rookie girls all by myself. I can’t go into camp feeling like this about my church and the people at my church. I can’t afford to hold onto this bitterness and resentment when these feelings will directly affect the girls in my cabin. I need to serve with my whole heart knowing that I’m serving God, not man. I need to trust that no matter if anyone else sees what I’m doing, above all, God sees me.
Matthew 23: 11-12
The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.