I am not Brandon Vogt.
A couple of months back, I made the fortunate mistake of following Brandon Vogt on Facebook. For those who don’t know who Brandon is, he’s what I’d call a celebrity. Not a real celebrity, mind you, of the People magazine variety, but an internet celebrity of Catholicism. The internet is the realm of quasi-celebrities – people who don’t really qualify for celebrity status in the culture at large, but who are doing awesome work in a niche. Brandon is one of my heroes of the new evangelization. He’s a dad, husband, author, and speaker with a quick wit and a heart for service.
So, what’s the problem? I’m not him!
Of course, it is in jest that I say it’s a problem that I am not Brandon. As much as I love the work he’s doing, I use him to make a point that it’s easy for us to idolize the people we follow and idealize the work that they’re doing. Have you ever noticed that the gifts of others often look so much brighter than our own? Like kids on Christmas morning, we can’t help but look around at what our brothers and sisters got, just to see how it all stacks up.
It’s easy for me, in one of my less stellar moments, to look at all that Brandon does and feel like I’m just not doing enough. In these moments, I have to take a step back and remind myself that God already has a Brandon Vogt doing that work. He needs me to be Chris Williston. My job, then, is to tirelessly pursue just what being Chris Williston means, from God’s perspective.
Over the last couple of months, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the individual personalities of my kids. As a Dad, I want to recognize their strengths and help them direct their attention towards activities that give them self-confidence and a feeling of accomplishment. This, of course, forces me to fight the urge of feeling like I’m failing my son by not putting him back in tee ball, an activity for which he expressed passive apathy, at best.
In this endeavor of compassionate parenting, I find myself doing a lot of observing and listening, trying to see what motivates each of the kids. What do they talk about when it’s just me and them? How do they act when they’re not in competition with each other? What are they saying when a tinge of excitement creeps into their voice?
In the same kind of way, figuring out what it means to be a God-inspired Chris Williston requires the same sensitivity to myself as I am extending towards my kids. It means opening my heart to hear the Holy Spirit. It requires that I stop, listen to my heart and ask: What work am I doing when I feel most fully alive? What projects and commitments are making a better servant of Christ? And, most importantly, what will help me fulfill the primary commitment of my vocation, sharing the love of Christ with my wife and kids, urging them towards heaven?
It’s ok to have heroes, or people we just think are really amazing. But, we can’t focus so much on what others are doing to the point in which we forget that God has called us all to a unique brand of amazing. The ultimate goal is Christ-likeness, not Brandon-likeness, or [insert the name of your hero here]-likeness. To do that, we have to figure out the gifts that God gave each of us to pursue that image.