“If you want a definition of water, don’t ask a fish.” This was an ancient Chinese proverb included in John M. Bracke and Karen B. Tye’s book, Teaching the Bible in the Church. This proverb captivated me and helped me understand that I was steeped in idolatry over the summer.
I am a Christian against Christian Nationalism. Heck, I even changed my profile picture to reflect as much in late 2019, but I am not immune to the cultural standards that America and American Christianity have imposed on my psyche.
Over the summer, I was busy, we took our younger students to PASSPORTkids, we had advocacy camp, a water game and worship night, a kickball game, we had an outing to the local minor league ballpark to watch our Durham Bulls smoke the Gwinnett Stripers, and a couple of movie nights for good measure.
I visited people in our congregation who were sick or could not make it to church, I wrote curriculum for my students, and my wife and I remodeled the space for the students.
But all throughout the summer, I could not shake the idea that I was not doing enough.
I would see the things that student ministers were doing on Instagram and I thought, I am nothing compared to them, I need to work harder to make this a better space for my students!
At this point in the blog, you may realize my problem. I was not serving the God I first loved, but another god who made me the one responsible for what was happening in the student ministry.
All throughout the summer, the American cultural expectations of what work is supposed to look like was eating at my soul. I thought that if I was not in the office from nine to five every day, then I was not enough, that I was not sufficient. Even though I am part-time at my church, I craved to be one of the ministers that say, “there is no part-time in ministry.”
I was devoting my life to YHWH, but I was devoting my work to the god of the protestant work ethic.
That American god is a false god that tells us that we need to be the best and that we need to be on the cutting edge of everything. That god tells us that we aren’t doing enough and we must always pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.
That is not the god I worship.
I worship a God that tells me that I am enough. My God calls me to a relationship with Godself. And when I fall, my God picks me up, dusts me off, and consoles me.
My God doesn’t want me to be the best, my God just wants me to join God in what God is doing.
I am so thankful that I worship that God.
John DeWitt is a CBF Leadership Scholar and serves as minister of children and youth at Mount Hermon Baptist Church in Durham North Carolina. He is seeking his Masters of Divinity at Campbell University Divinity School.