We live in a world where everybody wants to be the best at something. Motivational speakers encourage the young and old to, "Be the best!"
"Be the best you can be."
"Be the best in the room."
"Be the best in the building."
Our youth are constantly being encouraged to be the best; to be the best student, to be the best athlete, to be the best dancer, to be the best actor, to be the best speller, to be the best skateboarder...etc etc. It even goes farther with being encouraged to have the best sense of humor, to have the best musical talent, to have the best style, to have the best phone, and to have the best personality. I'm not disagreeing with wanting to be the best or have the best. I just want to add to the list; I want to add something I don't really hear people saying. Because by adding this one thing, it changes everything else.
If you think back to the time when you were young, I'm sure you'd remember you had that one person who you looked up to. Whether a parent, grandparent, sibling, super hero, celebrity or athlete, we all had that role model who made an enormous impact on our life, someone who we considered to be the best. As we grew, we recognized our desire to be that specific person. For those of us who looked up to athletes, we had the desire to be an amazing athlete. For those of us who looked up to singers or dancers, we would go around the house singing and dancing, wanting so bad to be an amazing singer or dancer. As time went on, we would come to the realization that some of our goals are possible, and that if we worked hard enough we could achieve our dreams of success.
In our journey to reach the top of the athletic/business/artistic ladder, we would fall and get back up. We would stay up late learning about how to be better. We would practice and work hard to get better and better, every single day. Countless hours spent frustrated because we weren't seeing progress. But somehow, someway, we reach our goals in one way or another. And along the way we are surrounded by incredible people who encourage and support us to make progress in our journey.
But I have to ask: How often are we fighting to be the best Christian(s)? How often do we crave the gentleness of Christ? How often do we beg for discernment? How often do we take the time to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and visit the sick? Let me be clear, this is not about being the best Christian so we can toot our own horns, but quite the opposite. This is about being the best Christian so we can focus on Christ, and direct the gaze of others toward Him. But lets be honest, being the "best Christian" is not an easy task, then again, neither is becoming a professional athlete or actor. So what's the difference in how we approach our faith and how we approach secular success? What is it about soccer practice that makes attendance there more important than attendance at Church sunday morning? What is it about Prom that allows students to miss Holy Friday or Holy Saturday services? What is it about going to play laser tag that outweighs going to visit the sick or feed the hungry. We already know the answers. Soccer is fun, hanging out with friends is fun, prom is fun... while Church is... well, not always fun.
Where am I going with this?
Brothers and sisters in Christ, every summer the camp houses kids from all over the country. The kids come to Camp and Christ energizes them through using the CN staff, with direction of His Grace Bishop Gregory and Father Stephen, to teach them how to live as a Christian. As loving parents, grandparents and friends, we must encourage our youth to be the best Christian, keeping in mind it isn't for self-glory, but rather for Gods glory. We must encourage the youth to attend more services and to be involved. We should encourage our youth to pray at school before they eat. We must encourage our youth to be thankful to God for all things, both the good and the bad. But not only should we encourage our youth, we should teach our youth.
We teach our youth about math and science; we teach our youth about sports and technology, we teach our youth about music and art; but how often do we teach our youth about Christ and His Church?
One of our goals as Orthodox Christians, especially for those of you connected to Camp Nazareth, is to continue in the mission of Camp throughout the year. One of our goals is to continue with morning prayers, evening prayers, praying before meals and learning about the saints. One of our goals is to have those difficult discussions about the faith and to ask questions about things we don't know or understand. This is how we grow in the faith.
So keep being the best student, keep being the best professional, keep being the best artist and the best chemist. Keep being the best teacher and keep being the best musician; but most importantly, be the best Christian; not just by your words, but show it by your actions.