On Being an Amateur

The word "amateur" is not in the Bible.  But the word is derived from the root "to love," so an amateur is someone who engages in a pastime for FUN.  Rather than as a profession.  

Unfortunately, there are negative connotations to the idea of being an amateur: one who is not competent.  "He's such an amateur."  And we don't like to be thought of us an incompetent person who just dabbles poorly in things.

But if we insist on doing only things we're good at, or even more extremely, professionals at, we might miss out on enormous possibilities for joy.

Pastor Martha put a couple of people on the spot on Aug. 22 when she asked volunteers to come to the front and try juggling for the first time.  Martha was also a good sport and tried it herself.  It was fun, and there was lots of laughter!  But it took some effort to get a volunteer in the first place!  Because it doesn't feel very good to be an amateur.  We worry about looking foolish or falling.  But all the laughter in the room as people tried to juggle points more to the fun that being an amateur can create.

Jesus called a little child to him and said "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven."  What did he mean?

Passion, abandon, curiosity, and wonder.  These are some of the qualities of childlike faith.  But if you observe children as they grow up, you can actually watch those qualities wear away, smoothed out like stones eroded by water.  The reasons for this wearing away of wonder are legion.  But this week, let's focus on one -- PERFECTIONISM.  

At whatever age, we don't like to return to an experience of knowing nothing.  Being an amateur.  So we hesitate, or reject it.  We're convinced we couldn't be good at something, so we don't even try.  What a tragic loss.  

When we hold unrealistic, irrational expectations of ourselves in any area -- our vocation, marriage, and even our faith -- we are at risk of becoming paralyzed by perfectionism.  So perhaps the antedote to perfectionism is trying something new, at which you cannot be competent.  Something you'd like to try, but without the expectation of excellence.  

Even Jesus' frightening exhortation to "be perfect as your heavenly Father in perfect," is not about our performance, but rather that we would aim our lives at matching the purpose (Greek: teleos) of the Father.  

This week, remember two important things:
1) You are allowed to be an amateur!  As Jesus delighted in the children of his day, so God also delights in us as children, who experience the world with wonder.

2) There are always new things to try!  If the only thing holding you back from trying something new is yourself, then hopefully you feel liberated today by this good news, and you can go out soon and feel the joy of being an amateur again!


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