I am not an extravert. This is not exactly shocking news to people who know me. I scored so far into the introversion range on the personality test for ministry prep in grad school that the adviser told me I might want to consider another field. I didn’t.
But moving into our neighborhood fourteen years ago (OK,it’s not really a neighborhood. It’s a dead end street with twenty houses strung along it), I knew I wanted to get to know my neighbors somehow. Going out to meet them or inviting them over individually was about as likely to happen as going up and down the street in a bikini in January. (And trust me, going anywhere in a bikini at any time is not going to happen, ever. ) So, we began what became the annual tradition of the Richardson house neighborhood cookie exchange each December.
Now, at our house, this has always been a civilized event. But cookie exchanges can turn ugly. Because there is no fury like a woman whose Russian Teacakes are scorned. Watch this particularly, I am not kidding you, at a church cookie exchange. We all smile politely about it. We all pretend we don’t care if people take more of Edna’s chocolate krinkles than our pecan cherry delights. (And who wouldn’t prefer the former, really?) But we do care, deeply. And we are watching that table like the lions watched Daniel to see whose cookies go and whose stay. Sure, we know Jesus is the reason for the season. But we also know Hershey’s Kisses and a few well-sprinkled nonpareils might be the reason we go home feeling validated. I suspect that cookie exchanges in real neighborhoods, where people live closer to one another than they do on or street and interact more, are very similar. Oneupmanship lives.
So why do we allow the perfectly round circumference of a sugar cookie or the choice of chunky, creamy, or super chunky in our peanut butter blossoms to determine whether or not we believe the endeavor was worthwhile? And, by extension, whether or not we are?
Because it’s easy. We may never be able to tell if we are the best listener in the neighborhood, or the best at watching out for the other kids. We may never see ourselves rated on being an encourager at church, or understanding the messages, or helping behind the scenes. These are not quantifiable. But we know without a shadow of a doubt whose cookie tray goes home the emptiest. And so there we can hang our worth. Which is a pretty fickle thing to bind our personal validity to. Cookies can let you down with the slightest change in temperature or butter versus margarine.
What kind of measurement are you using to decide whether you deserve whatever title it is you want today?