Lent 2013, Entry 11

I’d had enough of the Oscars last night after about an hour or so. Maybe it’s because the ladies in my house DVR’d some red-carpet preview show and even though we fast-forwarded a lot of it I was still getting tired-head. And if the Manicure Cam didn’t set me over the edge…

…and I thought host Seth MacFarlane had hits and misses. I laughed at the sock puppets and a few things I kinda felt bad about laughing at, but so it goes.

So, I bailed around an hour into it and read a book I’ve been trying to finish. I did want to see who won the award for Best Actress & Best Actor and which movie won for Best Picture and tuned in when those awards were given out. I thought the voters got them right…but maybe Lincoln should’ve won. I was okay with Lincoln, Argo or Silver Linings Playbook winning. As long as that overrated Zero Dark Thirty didn’t I was good.

What I was pleasantly surprised by was how much I enjoyed Ben Affleck’s acceptance speech as one of the producers of Argo. And, I thought about his grace and humility in the moment (even if he was hurried due to time constraints) and gave a lot of thought to that speech as I was thinking about my own life during Lent.

Anyway, here’s the speech (his words italicized) and the thoughts that went through my head as I reflected on it…

Thank you very much. Thank you very, very much. I know eventually that thing is going to start quickly so please forgive me if this is a little bit quick.

In a lot of ways my walk with God is one that seems like I’m only now starting to wrap my arms around it. Keep in mind that I’ve been in Christian circles almost all of my life, studied at seminary, and been in full-time ministry for nearly a quarter-century. But at the risk of sounding very middle-aged, I do only feel like I’m getting started while at the same time, I look back at my life/ministry and see that it has flown by. I’m tempted to look forward and get concerned that there might not be enough time for me to “get my act together” now that I’m starting to feel like I finally understand who I am and what I’m about.

And, while the “thank you’s” might’ve sounded trite, there is a reminder that living a life out of thankful gratitude for the work Christ has done for me, in me, and through me, well, it never hurts to say “thanks” to Him (or to others who’ve helped me along the way).

I want to acknowledge Steven Spielberg, who I feel is a genius and a towering talent among us. I want to acknowledge the other 8 films, there are 8 great films, who have as much a right to be up here as we do. I want to acknowledge them for what they did and thank them and many of them who didn’t even get nominated this year.

This is really humbling. Here was his night…a lot different from 15 years ago when he’d been involved with another award winner in Good Will Hunting. Then, he was new on the Hollywood scene and experienced the highest success early-on in his career. Now, with a few flops under his belt, and seeing how hard it is to have longevity in the business, he appreciates what it takes to even get nominated.

He isn’t threatened by other people doing it well. He knows that there are even better directors out there. He knows that a lot of planets had to line up for his film to win the award. He knows some great movies that didn’t get nominated, too (The Perks of Being a Wallflower comes to my mind>.

I used to see ministry as a competition…even if it was with myself a lot of times. And the value I saw in attendance numbers and numbers of services we’d grown to. Now, I relate to Ben when he is truly okay admitting someone else’s greatness…especially when he’d been snubbed by not even being nominated for the Best Director award. And I’m okay admitting that there’s a whole lot of ministries out there doing things very well, some we know about, some we don’t.

I want to thank Jack McNiece, Jerry Speck, Marty Brest and my brother and my mom and dad and Patrick Whitesell and Tony Mendez, who let us do his story. Thank you. I thank you everyone in the movie, on the movie, worked on the movie, did anything with this movie gets thanked. I want to thank Canada. I want to thank our friends in Iran living in terrible circumstances right now.

Ben understands that other people helped him get to where he is now…whether it’s an agent or a director who taught you early on, or your siblings, or the guy the story you’re making the movie about. The longer I’m in this business, the more I realize how helpful my extended family has been. Even though they didn’t really understand it all, or get it now, they stood by me and the decisions I made even in disagreement.

And there are too many people to thank, too. I’ve had the privilege of working alongside some of the most talented folks I know, like Charlie, Wes and Lizzie, Nathan, Steve-O, Heather, Kristy, Katherine, and I could go on and on and on with interns and pastors and students and missionaries and well, the list would get WAY too long and they’d play me off stage as my time would run out. Like this list, I’ll leave someone out anyway. So just thank ’em all.

It never hurts to remember that other folks in the world have it a whole lot worse, either. I mean, I’ve actually griped before about projector bulbs burning out and we couldn’t use our Power Point that day. Or the fact that some other ministry comandeered the tables we wanted to use. Having been to central Africa or Juarez or Haiti, well, it’s helpful to keep in mind those things.

I want to thank my wife who I don’t usually associate with Iran. I want to thank you for working on our marriage for 10 Christmases. It’s good. It is work but it’s the best kind of work and there’s no one I’d rather work.

Yeah. You don’t stay in ministry long at all unless you have a wife who’s highly committed to you doing so. Trust me on that one. And they probably feel the criticisms of their spouse more deeply than the spouse. But my wife has 24 Christmases under her belt and well, she probably works harder at our marriage than I do. Nonetheless, I understand that without her faithfulness and love and support, well, there’s really no long-term full-time ministry for me.

And I’d just like to say, I was here 15 years ago or something and I had no idea what I was doing. I stood out here in front of you all and really just a kid. I went out and I never thought I would be back here. And I am, because of so many of you who are here tonight, because of this Academy, because of so many wonderful people who extended themselves to me when they had nothing to benefit from it in Hollywood. You know what I mean, I couldn’t get them a job.

Again, perspective means something. My first year in ministry there were huge growth numbers and lots of positive PR and it all seemed so easy. Then the 2nd year hit. Now, I’ve seen kids go from 5th grade to their marriages and their own kids, and understand that some years are better than others. Hell, at this stage, I can say that some decades were better than others.

In fact, when I’d been at my last job for 15 years, someone came up to me with a thoughtful gift–who had been in several ministries but never in one spot that long–and kind of teared up when he gave it to me. Said that he knew more than most how hard this is to do. He understood, like Ben does, that along the way you might get some recognition, but there was a lot of help along the way…

…and you understand that in the slow business of spiritual growth you learn to appreciate those moments a little more than you did earlier. Both in your own life and in the lives of the people you serve.

I want to thank them and I want to thank what they taught me, which is that you have to work harder than you think you possibly can. You can’t hold grudges. It’s hard but you can’t hold grudges. And it doesn’t matter how you get knocked down in life because that’s going to happen. All that matters is you gotta get up.

So much of the spiritual life is gleaned, and not from award-winning nights. Just the faithful day-in & day-out of doing what we do. Yes, you serve. Yes, you get treated like a servant. But you learn to forgive. Yes. You make mistakes, but you do what you can to keep serving even when you’ve been imperfect. There’s not really a magic formula for long-term ministry or such…just trust God and do the next thing. When you feel like you’re done with it all and want to quit, just trust and do the next thing. We all have our days.

Violet, Sam and Sera, this is for you.

A lot like our wives, well, our kids see us and the church world so much differently. We always tried to give our children the reality that they might not like what they see, but what they see would be authentic. My wife and I authentically following God and they could make their decisions based on that. Not the church or the people that make it up or to feel pressured to be somebody they aren’t simply because they were pastor’s kids. Sure, they did that some on their own, but by and large, so much of my ministry has been to my own kids. I always wanted them to know they were loved and cared for more than the folks at the church.

So, it was a short speech…but one that I thought embodied the appreciation, humility and thankfulness that only a long-term tenure in that arena could give.

I learned from it. So, thanks, Ben. Well-done…on the movie and on the speech.