Chris Seidman (’92), senior minister of The Branch Church, a multi-site fellowship in Dallas, was the featured Commencement speaker May 4 in Moody Coliseum at ACU. One of the most involved students to ever study on the Hill, he co-founded the memorable Candlelight Devotional experienced by freshmen each August during Wildcat Week. He began his career in ministry soon after graduating in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science degree in broadcast journalism and marrying Tara McKnight (’92). He served as campus minister for the Southern Hills Church of Christ in Abilene (1992-93), singles and associate preaching minister for The Hills Church in North Richland Hills (1994-97) and preaching minister for Gateway Church of Christ in Pensacola, Fla. (1997-2000). He earned a master’s degree in biblical studies from ACU in 1995. Seidman also has authored three books – Little Buddy: What a Rookie Father Has Learned About God From the Birth of His Sons (Leafwood), Before Stones Become Bread (College Press) and Heaven on Earth: Realizing the Good Life Now (Abingdon).
On this Mother’s Day weekend I’m mindful that there are seasons in a mother’s life where it’s a struggle to feel a sense of value, worth or significance amidst the day-to-day grind of raising children. When Peggy Campolo, the wife of noted author and sociologist Tony Campolo, was at home with their young children, and would attend events with her husband – she began to dread the inevitable question – “And what is it that you do, my dear?”
That is – until she formulated her answer. She learned to respond, “I am socializing two Homo sapiens into the dominant values of the Judeo-Christian tradition in order that they might be instruments for the transformation of the social order into the kind of eschatological utopia that God willed from the beginning of creation.”
Then Peggy would ask the other person, “And what do you do?”
While asking somebody “what they do” can be a harmless icebreaker for a question, the fact is we live in a world that often assigns significance and worth to a person on the basis of what they do. And today, many of you are one step closer to being fully immersed in this world.
I’ve come to encourage you today to dig in and lean into another story and allow it to shape the story you’re writing.
Human Beings Not Human Doings
At the beginning of time when God created humanity, there’s something He did before He ever gave human beings something to do. Genesis 1:27 says that upon creating male and female, He blessed them and then He said be fruitful. That word “bless” can mean to “verbally bow the knee in adoration … to speak well of … to praise … to eulogize.”
In our world today we wait to speak well of people until after they die, when in fact we’re to speak well of a person while they’re alive. Because God does. But I digress.
What I want us to lean into is this – Before God ever gives human beings a command or instruction of any kind to carry out – He speaks well of them – He pronounces a blessing over them – He assigns us significance and value. And He does this before He tells us to be fruitful.
Your significance, value and worth have nothing to do with what you do but who you are as a person created in His image. We’re human beings not human doings. And every now and then our hearts testify of this to us.
A Memorial for a Miscarriage
There are moments when our hearts testify to us of the story which we were made to live in and live out of. Not too long ago, a family in our church experienced a miscarriage rather late in the pregnancy. The grief was profound. They asked me to officiate a memorial service for the life which ended within the mother’s womb. More than 300 people attended.
I was struck by how many were weeping during the service. It was comparable to services I had done for small children and young adults who had passed away. But this child had never been born. She have never accomplished anything. She died in the womb. Given the outpouring of grief, though, you would have thought this was a teen or a 20-something that had suddenly passed.
Our hearts were testifying to us. They knew better. Our significance, our worth, our sense of meaning isn’t tied to what we do but who we are. The tears of many testified to the significance, value and meaning of the baby apart from her achievements or accomplishments.
Leaning Into Your Intrinsic Value
I’m calling you today to lean into your intrinsic value as you enter into a world of “ascribed” value. There’s such a difference between living from the blessing of God and living for the blessing of others.
We live in a world that ascribes value, significance, worth, on the basis of what you do or what you have, or what you accomplish or how you look, as opposed to who you are. We’re only as secure as that to which we are tied.
If our sense of identity, meaning, value, worth is tied to what we do or have, or accomplish, or our appearance – then it’ll never be very secure. Because all of those things fluctuate and fade.
Some people’s sense of worth is tied up in proving their superiority but then they have an experience of inferiority and they’re rocked, angry, despairing and that’s when the real trouble starts and they begin to speak and act out of it.
Some people’s sense of worth is tied up in notoriety but then they have an experience of obscurity and they’re rocked, angry, despairing and that’s when the real trouble starts and they begin to speak and act out of it.
Some people’s sense of worth is tied up in being successful but then they have an experience of failure and they’re rocked, angry, despairing and that’s when the real trouble starts and they begin to speak and act out of it.
Knowing your intrinsic value will help you navigate this world of ascribed value. It’ll help you weather seasons of inferiority, obscurity, and failure without allowing those seasons to hijack your life. You’ll have them but the difference is they won’t have you.
There’s such a difference between living from the blessing of God and living for the blessing of others. It’s a blessing that’s declared at creation and it’s demonstrated at the cross.
As I John 3:16 says – “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.” You’re worth creating and you’re worth dying for.
Learning to live from the blessing of God and not for the blessing of others will set you free.
It’s set you free to risk failure.
If our sense of value is tied to batting .1000, being perfect, or always being successful then chances are we won’t take many risks. But failure is an event, not a person. And often times failure is necessary when it comes to discerning what your calling is and even being innovative in your life.
It’ll set you free to receive counsel and correction.
When we realize that we’re valuable, we’re significant, we’re worth something apart from what we do, we’re then in a healthier place to receive feedback when it comes to what we do.
When our identity is our work we’re not in a good place to receive feedback. We tend to take any counsel, correction or constructive criticism as a personal attack.
Some people never grow their effectiveness in what they do because their insecurity interferes with being able to receive counsel, correction or constructive criticism.
It’ll set you free to lead.
I’ve heard of leadership as the art of disappointing people at a pace that they can stand. The conductor at some point has to turn his or her back to the crowd and lead. In some cases, it’s difficult to do what’s best for others if we’re consumed with being blessed by others.
It’ll set you free to be who we were made to be.
Most of us probably know Ted Giannoulas even if we’ve never heard his name. He has been the San Diego Chicken for 30 years. At age 50, being the San Diego Chicken has been his life and his whole identity. But it’s come at a price. Not too long ago, he confessed to having lost much of his life in that chicken suit. As he put it, ‘I’m realizing I have plenty of Chicken stories, but no Ted stories.’ ”
Living for the blessing of others can lead to life in a lot of chicken suits. Lean into living from the blessing of God – declared at creation – demonstrated at the cross.
And in the end may you have plenty of your own stories, for the good of the world around you and the glory of God above you.