being unexceptional

There is nothing quite like a class presentation to get you thinking about where you stand not just academically, but socially. It’s that strange place where academia meets the social, where your intellectual opinions spill over into the way your classmates treat you after the class ends. In Singapore’s classroom culture these two don’t often meet, but when they do, they present a high-pressure environment where everything you say intellectually will be judged socially.

I spent hours on that presentation. I stayed up researching every single source, every pertinent example – obsession is what they call it. But obsession with what?

The presentation went, strangely. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t the smoothest. I spelled out my arguments clearly, but they weren’t convinced. They nodded, but I could tell not all of them agreed. Some did though.

Isn’t that worse? To straddle rejection and worship – to be truly unexceptional.

I took an enneagram test recently, and apparently Type 4s have the motivational need to express their uniqueness and be authentic.

To be exceptional.

For so long I have been the main character in my story. In all the narratives I’ve crafted, whether they be testimonies or articles or blogposts, the one who gets the glory is me, even when I spend the whole thing talking about something else.

I become foreign to what I write – the content doesn’t matter as much as the response to it is.

(To think I’d find Marx helpful in understanding my inner emotional life.)

So now I encounter a situation where I am not special, not even in the worst way possible. Instead I am left suspended, uncrushed and unlifted. I am neither the subject nor the background, merely a passenger in the crowd.

Am I okay with a life that isn’t centered around me?

“I am not the Christ.”

How can you say that John? Don’t you want people to know you?

“Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.

No! Follow me!

“And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots and his horsemen.”

Did we not leave our homes for you God? Why do you get the glory?

“so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

His grace. Not mine.
His purpose. Not mine.
His glory. Not mine.

Those are really hard words for a proud man to hear.

Who is the main character in my narratives? Who gets the glory? Is it not me, constantly? All the time it is about how I have suffered, how I have responded, how I have recieved this grace. How ridiculous it is that we can make our lives about us! Especially if we believe that this new life we have from God is a gift from Him.

You deserve the glory God, and You alone can claim it. My life is servant to the display of Your glory, to the execution of Your will. Help me rejoice in the display of Your glory! That you take centre-stage every time, that you recieve all the credit all the time.

Help me delight in the display of Your glory God. Unexceptional, exceptional – these terms become irrelevant in the display of Your glory. Whether I stand on a mountain top, or suffer in a valley, or float in a strange space between the two, let it all serve Your glory.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Help me never to boast, especially when I am talking about You.

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