By Clay Imoo
Simply stated, we don’t do enough affirmation. It’s very easy to find fault, to judge, even to gossip…it’s just human nature. This lack of affirmation can be prevalent in the world of ministry as well. Along with reasons like burn-out and busy schedules, lack of affirmation and appreciation is often cited as a major reason as to why people leave ministry. It’s easy to see how this can happen: sometimes we can so wrapped up in getting our “stuff” done that we concentrate too much on programming and not enough on people.
Genuine affirmation can go a long way. A simple “thank you” will often make someone else’s day.
Thus, I’ll take whatever compliments come my way. Even if they aren’t really compliments!
Last week I took the boys skating at Richmond’s Minoru Arena with the youth ministries of St. Paul’s Parish, my home church. Two of the teens, Anna and Jessica, came up to me giggling. I asked them what was so funny, and they told me that they had heard that people with big ears live long lives. I knew what was coming…but I asked anyway:
“So what does that have to do with me?”
They answered, almost in unison: “You will live for a very long time.”
I smiled as I immediately thought of my good friend Mark in the Philippines, comforted to know that he’ll probably live to about 150 years old according to the Anna and Jessica theory.
As the birthdate of Kayla Marie drew near, Gail and I would constantly wonder what she would be like and whose personality and physical traits she would have. I think we did a pretty good job with Sean and Jake (if I may say so myself) and I’d like to think they took some of the best from both of us. Gail might disagree, thinking they got their good traits (looks, talent, etc) from her and their less-desirable traits (messiness, being night-owls, love of pop, etc) from me. But I digress.
Anyway, all of our conversations about Kayla would end with the same comment from Gail: “She can have your personality, brains, sense of humour and athletic ability. As long as she gets all of my looks.”
I smiled as I reasoned that Gail wants Kayla to look like her because they are both females. More probable, unfortunately, is that Gail simply thinks she is much better looking than I am.
But the best affirmation I have ever received was one from the national Canadian Youth Workers Conference in Vancouver in early December. I was blessed to share my testimony with all of the participants at a general session on Saturday night. As part of my sharing, I spoke of how my original career ambition was to become a Chartered Accountant. Of how God certainly had other plans for me, as I failed my CA exams and bounced around the worlds of accounting, human resources, and financial planning before obtaining my current job with the Archdiocese of Vancouver in December 2002. I can confidently say that I’m where God wants me to be: my job brings me life, hope, and joy.
Early the next morning, I was descending an escalator with Gerard when he pointed to a sign on a pillar where people had began to post affirmations. There, in bright blue printing read:
“CLAY IMOO. You’re awesome. Thanks for not being a CA!”
It warmed my heart to know that my story had touched at least one person. Through some detective work and good fortune, I was able to find out who wrote me the super sweet note. I thanked her and we’ve promised to keep in touch.
It’s funny because it’s not liked I failed my exams intentionally. But it’s indeed confirmation that God had another purpose in mind for me, I just needed to be open to it!
The sign is posted in my office now, on the same wall as my Bachelor of Commerce Degree from UBC. It’s a wonderful and humbling reminder to me of where I’ve been and how I got to where I am now. I’ll glance at the sign whenever I’m feeling down, unworthy, or inadequate.
In tougher times, those ten words are the only affirmation I need.