by Jeff Shaw, Director of Out of Darkness
This is the third time in the past six weeks that I’ve thought about writing on the experience of being selected as a finalist for the Epoch Awards. Every time I’ve thought about it, it has been crystal clear to me what I would have to write…and I haven’t liked the conclusion any of those times. What opposes me writing is the very subject of the writing itself – my beastly pride.
To be honest, I’m terrified right now. I don’t want you to know the ugliness that festers inside of my heart. But perhaps by hauling it out into the open, I can slay the beast.
A couple months ago I discovered that the Epoch Awards would be hosting its second gala and was accepting nominations for award winners. I jumped to the website immediately. Was I looking to see who would be speaking? Who would be leading worship? If any of my friends and co-laborers had been nominated? To nominate someone myself? No. I went looking for MY name.
Amongst hundreds of entries, “Jeff Shaw” was nowhere to be found. Even as I type this, my skin crawls with how nasty it is; but my response was disappointment, self-praise, even anger. “How could I not be nominated? Don’t people know who I am? Don’t people know what I’ve done?”
Then it happened. A few weeks later I was on the list! The pleasure was followed by deep conviction over the pride I had felt. My thoughts immediately changed. “God, how could you let me be nominated? I was such a child. I definitely don’t deserve this after my selfish response. You should have let me stay un-nominated to teach me a lesson about my pride.”
And then the unthinkable. A group of smiling, well-dressed people showed up in my office with balloons and a video camera to tell me I was a finalist. My dear friend and coworker, Anne Kerr, had been the one to nominate me. This one really did a number on me. I couldn’t have felt any less worthy. And what about Anne? Had it even occurred to me, in the midst of my self-absorption, to nominate her, the one who had been working just as long and probably harder at Out of Darkness than I had?
What I know is this – I have seen the strength and ferocity of the beast that is my pride more through being recognized than if I hadn’t been. I would have been content to pout and admit at Bible study that I was struggling with this little burden of pride…and could someone please pray for me. Then I would have moved on. Instead, God has thrown back the cover of the true extent of the wickedness of my heart.
He has shown me where I’d still be if not for the underappreciated sacrifice of 10 staff members and countless volunteers who die to themselves daily in the service of God and others.
He has shown me the way that has been paved by others who have gone before me, unrecognized, so that I could now pursue the calling God has placed on my own life.
And most importantly, He has shown me what He has put up with along the way.
Despite my own selfishness, self-reliance, and yes, pride, He has continued to allow me to serve in this capacity and to show me boundless grace and patience. And in His own gentle way, by giving me the recognition that I had sinfully sought, He has invited me to His dwelling place of true humility. A place where I’m not content just trying to tame or discipline the beast of pride, but where it must be put to death once and for all.
The day will come when I pass from this momentary life, or when the King of Kings decides it’s someone else’s time to lead. After all, Out of Darkness is His ministry and His passion…He’s just let me share it for a season. And when that time comes, I pray that I will joyfully be able to step aside and run into His arms. But until that time, precious Jesus, draw me into the very humility that You embraced when, not considering equality with God something to be grasped, You made Yourself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man humbled Yourself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! You alone are worthy of the highest praise.
To check out the other very deserving (and probably much more humble) nominees, click here.