For the most part, my children have never experienced a high-school football game. For the last several years I worked with a small private school in Maryland that did not have a football team. As a result, this corner of American culture was left unexplored by my children, until a couple of weeks ago.
I grew up going to all the home football games that my high school played. While never a natural athlete, I have always enjoyed the excitement and thrill of sports, and in small towns across the nation, Friday nights in the fall are nearly as sacred as Sunday mornings. It's not just the game. It's the conversations in the stands. It's being with people who, while they differ from us in many ways, are there for a shared purpose: to root the home team on to victory. This camaraderie combined with the adrenaline of the game draws a community together, even in the cold and rain. Needless to say, when we moved to Lunenburg, I wanted to get involved in the community and introduce my kids to this staple of Americana.
As the game progressed, the home team (the Central Chargers) was getting closer to the end-zone. The crowd started cheering as each play brought them closer to the goal line. The cheerleaders began to lead the crowd in some chanting, three-syllable cheer. Every high school has such a cheer. Sometimes they are simply the initials of the school (C-H-S! C-H-S! C-H-S!) other times they are more encouraging in nature (GO! FIGHT! WIN!). The crowd was thoroughly involved in the cheer, and I was enjoying the atmosphere. When there was a break in the action, I turned to find my wife fighting to control her laughter. I gave her the quizzical "What's up?" look, to which she answered, that while the crowd was chanting, our youngest daughter, Charley, made up her own cheer. Even though her small voice was drowned out by the scores of football fans around her, she was loudly saying, "HERE I AM! HERE I AM! HERE I AM!" It was as if Charley wanted the fans to notice her and her efforts.
Have you ever felt like Charley? You go to church, because in it you hope to find a group of people from various backgrounds tightly knit together by a common Savior.
You get involved.
You work hard to get your life straight.
Then something happens. Maybe it's small at first. Just a feeling deep inside that you rarely give credence to, but it grows. You begin to notice that everybody seems to be doing better than you are.
His Sunday School class is more popular than the one you teach (but you have put in so many hours of study).
She gets an appreciation award for her involvement with the seniors ministry (but you take communion to them every week).
That deacon gets a public 'thank-you' for his donation to the building fund (what about your weekly gift. It's not much, but it's all you can afford).
That elder seems to have everything in his life in order (yet you try so hard)
Before you know it, you feel like screaming "HERE I AM! I NEED HELP!" but you feel nobody would notice or care. They seem focused on something else.
Been there? I have.
I've felt unappreciated;
So let me give you some advice. First, realize that people may be focused on someone else and that someone else just might be Jesus! If you are in a church that is focused on Jesus, you may have simply lost your focus. Don't do things for personal recognition (see Matthew 6:1ff) do them for Jesus. It's His approval we should strive for, not man's. Make sure you have "fixed your eyes on Jesus" as you strive to do His will.
Second, your tank may be empty. I love D.L. Moody's metaphor of the human soul, a "leaky pitcher" that must stay near the Holy Spirit's stream in order to remain full. You can't feed others and not feed yourself, eventually you will starve. Don't fall into the trap of substituting devotional reading with study for a lesson. Feed yourself! Let God's Word replenish you. Also, make sure you have mature Christians in your life to encourage (not brown-nose) you in your efforts. We all need a pat on the back. It shouldn't be our goal, but we need that "atta boy!" sometimes.
Finally, cry out for help. Someone will hear you. My wife heard her daughter's improvised cheer, and God will hear your impoverished cry, no matter how "loud" your world seems. God will hear, and perhaps, so will God's people. I honestly think that sometimes we don't give people enough credit. Give them a chance to help and heal you. That's what the Church is for, let them do their job.
Do these things and know that God is cheering you on. He is your biggest fan and He wants you to succeed. Moreover, He has given you the ability to.
Until Next Time,