Years ago I worked for a very nice summer day camp. During camp we would have morning meetings and review important details for the day. At every meeting there were comment cards that were read. Parents or coworkers could anonymously fill one out and submit it for a camp employee. When an employee received 3 of these cards they would receive a special pin called a Bravo Zulu. The Bravo Zulu symbolized a job well done. They were put on your name tag and everyone saw it. I worked very hard my first summer and always hoped for a Bravo Zulu, but didn't get one.
Not receiving the coveted Bravo Zulu that summer always bothered me. Recently it made me think of the story of the prodigal son. I always heard messages about that story but didn't get them. All I could hear was the brother of the prodigal son did all that hard work, made the right choices and didn't get one Bravo Zulu. I always felt like he got jipped, he got shafted. No parties for him, no celebration because he made the right choices. What the heck? (sorry but that's how I'd always felt).
I mean, all we hear about is how God loves us and wants us to make the right choices and here is a person that does it all his life and gets no recognition. How does that make sense, how can that really be what God would do?
I never asked any one about it, I never explored it, because I think God needed me to see it to understand....
See a little over 4 years ago my husband and I decided to go to a different church. This church was so different than anything I had every experienced. I really liked it, but there were still so many things I wasn't sure about. For one, this was a much larger church than I had every experienced and I just wondered if people that went there could really be committed to God. Then I heard the stories about peoples lives being forever changed, being freed from their pasts, renewed and really, truly changed. It was amazing to hear the stories.
Suddenly it hit me, I was that other son, the jealous brother. But more importantly, these wonderful people who had just begun their life with God were the prodigal son and I was learning from them. I began to realize that the whole point of the story is that everyone's journey to God is different. It doesn't matter when we get there, it just matters that we make it. He just wants us. That's it. We don't need to spend our time comparing ourselves to others, worrying about what we have or have not done. If we waste our time doing that, there will always be someone that is better (or worse), more experienced, more knowledgeable, etc.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying stop working hard, stop learning, stop trying to be better at your job, etc. But I can tell you this; I did end up getting a Bravo Zulu in the next year. But it doesn't mean anything now. And when I worked a different job the following summer there was relief. Finally, I didn't have to feel like I was doing things to be noticed. I wasn't thinking the whole time 'oh, maybe I'll volunteer to do that, so someone will take note.' There's freedom in that, freedom to be me. And that my friends, is what God created me to be, me.