Successful or Faithful?

I’ve always been a workaholic, expending way too much of myself to accomplish something. To this day, I semi- jokingly say that I’m trying to be somebody when I grow up! Don’t judge me though. It all started when, as a kid, my mom drove by a cemetery and said to me, “Look at all that potential in the ground.” Now, I’m sure mom meant well; but that moment left an indelible print on my psyche that catalyzed my hamster on a wheel frenzy to reach all of my alleged potential.

That day began my fear of dying with unfinished business, and that fear was the beginning of my personal drive for achievement and success. I didn’t want to disappoint mom. I certainly didn’t want to disappoint God. Besides, any potential within me is a gift from God that I’m supposed to use to make the world a better place. Right?

I have since learned that my particular drive for success comes with a certain saboteur that tempts me to stop short if I don’t feel like I’m making significant strides within a certain window of time. Yes, I race an invisible clock counting down to the very millisecond that the buzzer goes off and a voice says, “Times up. Pencils down. You failed to finish.”

Of course my rational self understands that anything worth its salt takes time. But did I mention that I have a habit of being really hard on myself? I don’t want to disappoint my family, and I certainly don’t want to disappoint God. Right?

Mother Teresa offered words that give me reason to pause and reconsider that which drives me, even when I’m running out of gas. She said this:

“God does not demand that I be successful. God demands that I be faithful. When facing God, results are not important. Faithfulness is what is important.”

Here is a woman who accomplished so much in her faith, whose work with the poorest among us received national acclaim. Here is the founder of a well- respected convent, and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. And what she said is none of it really mattered: only her faithfulness to her call. It’s humbling. It makes my obsession with trying to make others proud a bit asinine. It makes my compulsive checking of social media insights, post engagements and subscriber numbers seem downright silly. Right?

Perhaps I’ll never get a blue check next to my name on IG or Twitter. Perhaps I won’t get to share my ideas as a popular Ted Talk speaker. It’s possible that I may never stand before thousands to preach a sermon, give an inspiring talk or offer prayers. My name may never make it to the New York Times bestselling author list. All of these are things that, in my heart of hearts, I hope to accomplish. It’s what I’m working towards. Maybe I won’t succeed. Maybe I will. But matters most is that I’m faithful to what makes my heart beat: helping the world heal, for God’s sake!

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